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THE . . 
MONOMANIAC 



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by Google 



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' SEVERINE UTTERED AN INVOLUNTARY CRY, AND ROUBAUD TURNED 
ROUND, TERRIFIED." i>. I96. 



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THE 
MONOMANIAC 

(LA BtfTE HVMAINE) 
By EMILE ZOLA. 



Translated and Edited, with a Preface 

Br EDWARD VIZETELLY 



« 



London 

HUTCHINSON 6? CO 
Paternoster Row . 1901 

All rights reserved. 

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PRINTED BY 

HAZELL, WATSON, AND VINET, LD., 

LONDON AND AYLESBtJRY. 



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PREFACE 



THIS striking work, now published for the first time in 
England, but a hundred thousand copies whereof have 
been sold in France, is one of the most .powerful novels that 
M. £mile Zola has written. It will be doubly interesting to 
English readers, because for them it forms a missing link in 
the famous Rougon-Macquart series. 

The student of Zola literature will remember in the 
Assommoir that " handsome Lantier whose heartlessness was 
to cost Gervaise so many tears." Jacques Lantier, the chief 
character in this Bite Humaine> this Human Animal which 
I have ventured to call the Monomaniac^ is one of their 
children. It is he who is the monomaniac. His monomania 
consists in an irresistible prurience for murder, and his 
victims must be women, just like that baneful criminal who 
was performing his hideous exploits in the streets of the city of 
London in utter defiance of the police, about the time M. Zola 
sat down to pen this remarkable novel, and from whom, 
maybe, he partly took the idea. 

Every woman this Jacques Lantier falls in love with, nay, 
every girl from whom he culls a kiss, or whose bare shoulders 
or throat he happens to catch a glimpse of, he feels an 
indomitable craving to slaughter ! And this abominable thirst 
is, it appears, nothing less than ah irresistible desire to avenge 

v b 

LIBRAE { 



vi Preface 

certain wrongs of which he has lost the exact account, that 
have been handed down to him, through the males of his line, 
since that distant age when prehistoric man found shelter 
in the depths of caverns. 

Around this peculiar being, who in other respects is like 
any ordinary mortal, M. Emile Zola has grouped some very 
carefully studied characters. All are drawn with a firm, 
masterly hand; all live and breathe. Madame Lebleu, 
caught with her ear to the keyhole, is worthy of Dickens. So 
is Aunt Phasie, who has engaged in a 'desperate underhand 
struggle with her wretch of a husband about a miserable 
hoard of ^40 which he wants to lay hands on. The idea 
of the jeering smile on her lips, which seem to be repeating 
to him, "Search! search!" as she lies a corpse on her bed 
in the dim light of a tallow candle, is inimitable. 

The unconscious S£verine is but one of thousands of 
pretty Frenchwomen tripping along the asphalt at this hour, 
utterly unable to distinguish between right and wrong, who 
are ready to do anything, to sell themselves body and soul 
for a little ease, a few smart frocks, and some dainty linen. 
The warrior girl Flore, who thrashes the males, is a grand 
conception. 

But the gem of the whole bunch is that obstinate, narrow- 
; minded, self-sufficient examining-magistrate, M^Denjzet^ 
and in dealing with this character, the author lays bare 
all the abominable system of French criminal procedure. 
Recently this was modified to the extent of allowing the 
accused party to have the assistance of counsel while under- 
going the torture of repeated searching cross-examinations 
at the hands of his tormentor. But in the days of which 
M. Emile Zola is writing, the prisoner enjoyed no such pro- 
tection. He stood alone in the room with the examining- 



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Preface vii 

magistrate and his registrar, and while the former craftily laid 
traps for him to fall into, the latter carefully took down his 
replies to the incriminating questions addressed to him. It 
positively makes one shudder to think how many innocent 
men must have been sent to the guillotine, or to penal 
servitude for life, like poor Cabuche, during the length of > 
years this atrocious practice remained in full vigour! 

The English reader, accustomed to open, even-handed - 
justice for one and all alike, and unfamiliar with the ways j,' 
that prevail in France, will start with amazement and in- 
credulity at the idea of shelving criminal cases to avoid 
scandal involving persons in high position. But such is by 
no means an uncommon proceeding on the other side of 
the straits. Georges Ohnet introduces a similar incident 
into his novel Le Droit de ? Enfant. \ 

M. femile Zola has made most of his books a study of \ 
some particular sphere of life in France. In this instance \ 
he introduces his readers to the railway and railway servants. ■ 
They are all there, from the station-master to the porter, 
and all are depicted with so skilful a hand that anyone who 
has travelled among our neighbours must recognise them. 

By frequent runs on an express engine between Paris and 
Havre, and vice versd, the author has mastered all the 
complicated mechanism of the locomotive; and we see his 
trains vividly as in reality, starting from the termini, gliding 
along the lofty embankments, through the deep cuttings, 
plunging into and bursting from the tunnels amidst the 
deafening riot of their hundred wheels, while the dumpy 
habitation of the gatekeeper, Misard, totters on its frail 
foundations as they fly by in a hurricane blast. 

The story teems with incident from start to finish. Each 
chapter is a drama in itself. To name but a few of the 



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viii Preface 

exciting events that are dealt with : there is a murder in a 
railway carriage; an appalling railway accident; a desperate 
fight between driver and fireman on the foot-plate of a 
locomotive, which ends in both going over the side to be 
cut to pieces, while the long train of cattle-trucks, under no 
control, crammed full of inebriated soldiers on their way to 
the war, who are yelling patriotic songs, dashes along, full 
steam, straight ahead, with a big fire just made up, onward ; 
to stop, no one knows where. 

This is certainly one of the best and most dramatic novels 
that M. £mile Zola has ever penned ; and I feel lively pleasure 
at having the good fortune to be able, with the assistance of 
my enterprising publishers, to present it to the English 
reading public. 

Edward Vizetelly. 

SURBITON, 

August 20, 1 90 1. 



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THE MONOMANIAC 



CHAPTER I 

ROUBAUD, on entering the room, placed the loaf, the 
p&t£, and the bottle of white wine on the table. But 
Mother Victoire, before going down to her post in the 
morning, had crammed the stove with such a quantity of 
cinders that the heat was stifling, and the assistant station- 
master, having opened a window, leant out on the rail in 
front of it. 

This occurred in the Impasse d' Amsterdam, in the last 
house on the right, a lofty dwelling, where the Western 
Railway Company lodged some of their staff. The window 
on the fifth floor, at the angle of the mansarded roof, looked 
on to the station, that broad trench cutting into the Quartier 
de PEurope, to abruptly open up the view, and which the 
grey mid-February sky, of a grey that was damp and warm, 
penetrated by the sun, seemed to make still wider on that 
particular afternoon. 

Opposite, in the sunny haze, the houses in the Rue de 
Rome became confused, fading lightly into distance. On 
the left gaped the gigantic porches of the iron marquees, 
with their smoky glass. That of the main lines on which 
the eye looked down, appeared immense. It was separated 
from those of Argenteuil, Versailles, and the Ceinture 
railway, which were smaller, by the buildings set apart for 



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2 The Monomaniac j 

the post-office, and for heating water to fill the foot-warmers, j 
To the right the trench was severed by the diamond pattern 
ironwork of the Pont de TEurope, but it came into sight 
again, and could be followed as far as the Batignolles tunnel. 

And below the window itself, occupying all the vast space, 
the three double lines that issued from the bridge deviated, 
spreading out like a fan, whose innumerable metal branches 
ran on to disappear beneath the span roofs of the marquees. 
In front of the arches stood the three boxes of the pointsmen, 
with their small, bare gardens. Amidst the confused back- 
ground of carriages and engines encumbering the rails, a 
great red signal formed a spot in the pale daylight. 

Roubaud was interested for a few minutes, comparing what 
he saw with his own station at Havre. Each time he came 
like this, to pass a day at Paris, and found accommodation 
in the room of Mother Victoire, love of his trade got the 
better of him. The arrival of the train from Mantes had 
animated the platforms under the marquee of the main lines ; 
and his eyes followed the shunting engine, a small tender- 
engine with three low wheels coupled together, which began 
briskly bustling to and fro, branching off the train, dragging 
away the carriages to drive them on to the shunting lines. 
Another engine, a powerful one this, an express engine, with 
two great devouring wheels, stood still alone, sending from 
its chimney a quantity of black smoke, which ascended 
straight, and very slowly, through the calm air. 

But all the attention of Roubaud was centred on the 
3.25 train for Caen, already full of passengers and awaiting 
its locomotive, which he could not see, for it had stopped 
on the other side of the Pont de PEurope. He could only 
hear it asking for permission to advance, with slight, hurried 
whistles, like a person becoming impatient. An order re- 
sounded. The locomotive responded by one short whistle 
to indicate that it had understood. Then, before moving, 
came a brief silence. The exhaust pipes were opened, and 



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The • Monomaniac 3 

the steam went hissing on a level with the ground in a 
deafening jet 

He then noticed this white cloud bursting from the bridge 
in volume, whirling about like snowy fleece flying through the 
ironwork. A whole corner of the expanse became whitened, 
while the smoke from the other engine expanded its black veil. 
From behind the bridge could be heard the prolonged, 
muffled sounds of the horn, mingled with the shouting of 
orders and the shocks of turning-tables. All at once the air 
was rent, and he distinguished in the background a train 
from Versailles, and a train from Auteuil, one up and one 
down, crossing each other. 

As Roubaud was about to quit the window, a voice calling 
him by name made him lean out. Below, on the fourth floor 
balcony, he recognised a young man about thirty years of 
age, named Henri Dauvergne, a headguard, who resided 
there with his father, deputy station-master for the main lines, 
and his two sisters, Claire and Sophie, a couple of charming 
blondes, one eighteen and the other twenty, who looked 
after the housekeeping with the 6,000 frcs. of the two men, 
amidst a constant stream of gaiety. The elder one would 
be heard laughing, while the younger sang, and a cage full 
of exotic birds rivalled one another in roulades. 

"By Jove, Monsieur Roubaud ! so you are in Paris, then? 
Ah ! yes, about your affair with the sub-prefect ! " 

The assistant station-master, leaning on the rail again, ex- 
plained that he had to leave Havre that morning by the 6.40 
express. He had been summoned to Paris by the traffic- 
manager, who had been giving him a serious lecture. He 
considered himself lucky in not having lost his post. 
" And madam ? " Henri inquired. 

Madame had wished to come also, to make some purchases. 
Her husband was waiting for her there, in that room which 
Mother Victoire placed at their service whenever they came 
to Paris. It was there that they loved to lunch, tranquil and 



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4 The Monomaniac 

alone, while the worthy woman was detained downstairs at 
her post. On that particular day they had eaten a roll at 
Mantes, wishing to get their errands over first of all. But 
three o'clock had struck, and he was dying with hunger. 
Henri, to be amiable, put one more question : 
"And are you going to pass the night in Paris?" 
No, no ! Both were returning to Havre in the evening 
by the 6.30 express. Ah ! holidays, indeed ! They brought 
you up to give you your dose, and off, back again at once ! 

The two looked at one another for a moment, tossing their 
heads, but they could no longer hear themselves speak; a 
devil-possessed piano had just broken into sonorous notes. 
The two sisters must have been thumping on it together, 
laughing louder than ever, and exciting the exotic birds. 
Then the young man gained by the merriment, said good- 
bye to withdraw into the apartment; and the assistant 
station-master, left alone, remained a moment with his eyes 
on the balcony whence ascended all this youthful gaiety. 
Then, looking up, he perceived the locomotive, whose driver 
had shut off the exhaust pipes and which the pointsman 
switched on to the train for Caen. The last flakes of white 
steam were lost amid the heavy whirling cloud of smoke 
^soiling the sky. And Roubaud also returned into his room. 
Standing before the cuckoo clock pointing to 3.20, he 
gave a gesture of despair. What on earth was keeping 
S^verine so long ? When she once entered a shop, she could 
never leave it. To stay his famishing hunger he thought 
of laying the table. He was familiar with thisjar ge apartm ent 
lighted by tWO windows whirh serve fl as hefo oom T riirrinpr- 
room, and kitchen; and with its walnut furniture, its bed 
draped in Turkey-red material, its sideboard, its round table, 
and Norman wardrobe. 

From the sideboard he took napkins, plates, knives and 
forks, and two glasses. Everything was extremely clean, 
and he felt as much pleased to perform this little household 



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The Monomaniac 5 

duty, as if he had been a child playing at dining. The 
whiteness of the linen delighted him, and, being very much 
in love with his wife, he smiled to himself at the idea of 
the peal of laughter she would give on opening the door. 
But when he had placed the pat£ on a plate, and set the 
bottle of white wine beside it, he became uneasy and looked 
about him. Then he quickly drew a couple of small parcels 
from his pockets which he had forgotten — a little box of 
sardines and some Gruyere cheese. 

The half hour struck. Roubaud strode up and down 
with an ear attentive to the staircase, turning round at the 
least sound. Passing before the looking-glass as he waited 
with nothing to do, he stopped and gazed at himself. He 
did not appear to be growing old. Although getting on 
for forty, the bright reddishness of his curly hair had not 
diminished. His fair beard, also verging on red, which he 
wore full, had remained thick. Of medium height, but 
extremely vigorous, he felt pleased with his appearance, 
satisfied with his rather flat head, and low forehead, his 
thick neck, his round, ruddy face lit up by a pair of large, 
sparkling eyes. His eyebrows joined, clouding his forehead 
with the bar of jealousy. 

There was a sound of footsteps. Roubaud ran and set 
the door ajar; but it was a woman who sold newspapers 
in the station, returning to her lodging hard by. He came 
back and examined a box made of shells standing on the 
sideboard. He knew that box very well, a present from 
SeVerine to Mother Victoire, her wet-nurse. And this 
trifling object sufficed to recall all the story of his marriage, 
which had taken place almost three years previously. 

Born in the south of France at Plassans, he had a carter 
for father. He had quitted the army with the stripes of 
a sergeant-major, and for a long time had been general 
porter at the station at Mantes. He had then been promoted 
head-porter at Bar§ntin, and it was there that he had first 



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6 The Monomaniac 

seen his dear wife, when she came from Doinville in 
company with Mademoiselle Berthe, the daughter of President 
Grandmorin. 

SeVerine Aubry was nothing more than the younger daughter 
of a gardener, who had died in the service of the Grand- 
morins; but the President, her godfather and guardian, had 
taken such a fancy to her, making her the playmate of his 
own daughter, sending them both to the same school at 
Rouen, and, moreover, she possessed such an innate air of 
superiority herself, that Roubaud for a long time, had been 
content to admire her at a distance, with the passion of a 
workman freed from some of his rough edge, for a dainty 
jewel that he considered precious. 

This was the sole romance of his existence. He would 
have wedded the girl without a sou, for the joy of calling 
her his own ; and when he had been so bold as to ask her 
hand, the realisation of his hopes had surpassed his dream. 
Apart from SeVerine and a marriage portion of 10,000 frcs., 
the President, now pensioned off, a member of the Board 
of Directors of the Western Railway Company, had extended 
to him his protection. Almost immediately after the wedding 
he had become assistant station-master at Havre. No doubt 
he had good notes to his credit — firm at his post, punctual, 
honest, of limited intelligence, but very straightforward, — all 
excellent qualities that might explain the prompt attention 
given to his request and his rapid promotion. But he pre- 
ferred to believe that he owed everything to his wife whom 
he adored. 

When Roubaud had opened the box of sardines he posi- 
tively lost patience. It had been agreed that they should 
meet there at three o'clock. Where could she be? She 
would not have the audacity to tell him that it required a 
whole day to purchase a pair of boots, and a few articles 
of linen. And as he again passed before the looking-glass, 
he perceived his eyebrows on end, and his fprehead furrowed 



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The Monomaniac 7 

with a harsh line. Never had he suspected her at Havre. 
In Paris he pictured to himself all sorts of danger, deceit, 
and levity. The blood rushed to his head, his fists of 
a former porter were clenched, as in the days when he 
shunted the carriages. He became the brute again, uncon- 
scious of his strength. He would have crushed her in an 
outburst of blind fury. 

SeVerine pushed open the door, and presented herself quite 
fresh and joyful. 

" Here I am ! Eh ! you must have fancied me lost," she 
exclaimed. 

In the lustre of her five-and-twenty years she looked tall, 
slim, and very supple, but she was plump, notwithstanding 
her small bones. At first sight she did not appear pretty, 
with her long face, and large mouth set with beautiful teeth. 
But on observing her more closely, she fascinated one by 
her charm, by the peculiarity of her blue eyes, crowned with 
an abundance of raven hair. 

And as her husband, without answering, continued to 
examine her with the troubled, vacillating look she knew 
so well, she added: 

" Oh ! I walked very fast. Just imagine, it was impossible 
to get an omnibus. Then, as I did not want to spend 
money on a cab, I walked as fast as I could. See how hot 
lam!" 

"Look here," said he violently, "you will not make me 
believe you come from the Bon Marche\" 

But immediately, in the delightful manner of a child, she 
threw herself on his neck, closing his mouth with her pretty 
little plump hand. 

"Oh! you wicked creature! you wicked creature!" she 
exclaimed ; " hold your tongue ; you know I love you." 

She was so full of sincerity, he felt her still so candid, so 
straightforward, that he pressed her passionately in his arms. 
His suspicions always ended thus. She abandoned herself 



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8 The Monomaniac 

to him, loving to be petted. He covered her with kisses, 
which she did not return; and it was this that caused him 
a sort of vague uneasiness. This great, passive child, full of 
filial affection, had not yet awakened to love. 

" So you ransacked the Bon March£ ? " said he. 

" Oh ! yes. I'll tell you all about it," she replied. " But, 
first of all, let us eat. You cannot imagine how hungry I 
am ! Ah ! listen ! I've a little present. Repeat, ' Where is my 
little present?'" 

And she laughed quite close to his face. She had thrust 
her right hand in her pocket, where she held an object she 
did not take out of it. 

" Say quick, ' Where is my little present ?'" she continued. 

He also was laughing, like a good-natured man, and did 
as she asked him. 
."Where is my little present?" he inquired. 
LShe had bought him a knife to replace one he had lost^ 
and which he had been regretting for the past fortnight/ 
He uttered an exclamation of delight, pronouncing this 
beautiful new knife superb, with its ivory handle and shining 
blade. He wanted to use it at once. She was charmed 
at his joy, and, in fun,£made him give her a sou, so that 
their friendship might not be severed/? 

" To lunch, to lunch ! " she repeated. " No, no ! " she 
exclaimed, as he was about to shut the window; "don't 
close it yet, I beg of you ! I am too warm ! " 

She joined him at the window, and remained there a few 
seconds, leaning-pn his shoulder, gazing at the vast expanse 
of the station. [For the moment the smoke had disappeared. 
The copper-coloured disc of the sun descended in the haze 
behind the houses in the Rue de Rome. At their feet a 
shunting engine was bringing along the Mantes train, all 
made up, which was to leave at 4.25. The engine drove 
it back beside the platform under the marquee, and was 
unhooked. In the background, beneath the span-roof of the 



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11 1 



The Monomaniac 9 

Ceinture line, the shocks of buffers announced the unforeseen 
coupling-on of extra carriages. And alone, in the middle 
of the network of rails, with driver and fireman blackened 
with the dust of the journey, the heavy engine of some slow 
train stood motionless, as if weary and breathless, with merely 
a thin thread of steam issuing from a valve. It was waiting 
for the line to be opened to return to the depot at Batignolles. 
A red signal clacked, disappeared, and the locomotive went off. I 

" How gay those little Dauvergnes are ! " remarked RoubaudT^ 
" Do you hear them thumping on their piano ? I saw Henri 
just now, and he asked me to give you his compliments." 

" To table, to table ! " exclaimed S6verine. 

And she fell upon the sardines with a hearty appetite, 
having eaten nothing since she bought the roll at Mantes. 
Her visits to Paris always made her excited. She was 
quivering with pleasure at her run through the streets, and 
still enraptured with her purchases at the Bon March£. 
Each spring she spent all her winter savings at one stroke, 
preferring to purchase everything at the capital, and thus 
economise the cost of the journey, as she said. Without 
losing a mouthful, she never paused in her chatter. A trifle 
confused, and blushing, she ended by letting out the total 
of the sum she had spent, more than 300 frcs. 

" The deuce ! " remarked Roubaud, startled ; " you get 
yourself up well for the wife of an assistant station-master ! 
But I thought you were only going to buy a little linen 
and a pair of boots." 

"Oh! my dear! but I have got such bargains. A piece 
of silk with such lovely stripes ! A hat, in exquisite taste, 
something to dream of! Ready-made petticoats with em- 
broidered flounces ! And all this for next to nothing. I 
should have paid double at Havre. They are going to 
send the parcel, and you'll see ! " 

She looked so pretty in her delight, with her confused air 
of supplication, that he resolved to laugh. And besides, 



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io The Monomaniac 

this little scratch dinner was so charming in this room where 
they were all alone, and much more comfortable than at a 
restaurant. She, who usually drank water, threw off restraint, 
and swallowed her glass of white wine without knowing 
what she was about. The box of sardines being empty, they 
attacked the pat£ with the beautiful new_knife. It cut so 
admirably that it was a perfect triumph. / 

" And you — what about your affair?" she inquired. "You 
make me chatter, and you don't tell me how your matter 
with the sub-prefect ended." 

^Thereupon he related in detail how he had been treated 
by the traffic-manager. Oh ! he had received a thorough good 
wigging! He had defended himself, he had told the truth. 
He had related how this little whipper-snapper of a sub- 
prefect had insisted on getting into a first-class carriage with 
his dog, when there was a second-class carriage reserved for 
sportsmen and their animals, and had given an account of 
the quarrel that had resulted, and the words that had been 
exchanged. In short, the manager had said he was right 
to have insisted on the regulations being complied with ; but 
the bad part of the business was that sentence which he 
confessed having uttered : " You others will not always be the 
masters!" He was suspected of being a republican. The 
discussions that had just marked the opening of the session 
of 1869, and the secret alarm about the forthcoming elections, 
had made the government distrustful. And had not President 
Grandmorin spoken warmly in his favour, he would certainly 
have been removed from his post. As it was, he had been 
compelled to sign the letter of apology which the latter had 
advised should be sent, and had drawn up himself. 

" Ah ! you see I " broke in S£verine. " Wasn't I right to 
drop him a line, and pay him a visit along with you, this 
morning, before you went to receive your wigging? I knew 
he would get us out of the trouble." 

" Yes, he is very fond of you," resumed Roubaud, " and is 



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The Monomaniac n 

all powerful in the company. What is the use of being a good 
servant ? Ah ! the manager did not stint me of praise : slow 
to take the initiative, but of good conduct, obedient, courageous, 
briefly, all sorts of qualities ! Well, my dear, if you had not 
been my wife, and if Grandmorin had not pleaded my cause 
out of friendship for you, it would have been all up with me. 
I should have been sent to do penance at some small station." / 

She was staring fixedly into space, and murmured, as if — 
speaking to herself : 

" Oh ! certainly, he is a man with great influence." 

There was a silence, and she sat with her eyes wide open 
and lost in thought. She had ceased eating. (jNo doubt 
she was thinking of the days of her childhood, far away, at 
the Chateau of Doinville, four leagues from Rouen.*~3She 
had never known her mother. When her father, the gardener 
Aubry died, she was commencing her thirteenth year; and 
it was at this period that the President, already a widower, 
had placed her with his daughter Berthe in charge of his 
sister, Madame Bonnehon, herself the widow of a manufacturer, 
from whom she had inherited the chateau. 

Berthe, who was two years older than S^verine, had been 
wedded six months after the marriage of the latter with 
Roubaud, to M. de Lachesnaye, a little, shrivelled-up, sallow- 
complexioned man, judge at the Rouen Court of Appeal. In 
the preceding year President Grandmorin was still at the head 
of this court at Rouen, which was his own part of the country, 
when he retired on a pension, after a brilliant career. 
[_JBorn in 1804, substitute at Digne on the morrow of the 
events in 1830, then at Fontainebleau, then at Paris, he had 
afterwards filled the posts of procurator at Troyes ; advocate- 
general at Rennes ; and finally, first president at Rouen. 
A multi-millionaire, he had been member of the County 
Council since 1855, and on the same day as he retired, he 
had been made Commander of the Legion of Honour. As 
far back as she could recollect, she remembered him just 



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12 The Monomaniac 

as he was now — thick- set and strong, prematurely grey, but 
the golden grey of one formerly fair; his hair cut Brutus 
fashion, his beard clipped short, no moustache, a square face, 
which eyes of a hard blue and a big nose rendered severe. 
He was harsh on being approached, and made everyone about 
him tremble. 

Slverine was so absorbed that Roubaud had to raise his 
voice, repeating twice over : 

" Well, what are you thinking about ? " 

She started, gave a little shudder, as if surprised, and 
trembled with alarm. 

" Oh ! of nothing ! " she answered. 

" But you are not eating. Have you lost your appetite ? " 
he inquired. 

" Oh ! no ; you'll see," she replied. 

SeVerine, having emptied her glass of white wine, finished 
the slice of p£te" on her plate. But there was a cry of alarm. 
They had eaten the small loaf; not a mouthful remained 
for the cheese. They clamoured, then laughed, and finally, 
after disturbing everything, found a piece of stale bread at 
the back of the sideboard cupboard of Mother Victoire. 

Although the window was open, it continued very warm, 
and the young woman, seated with her back to the stove, 
could not get refreshed ; and she had become more rosy and 
excited, by the unforeseen talkative lunch in this room. 
I Speaking of Mother Victoire, Roubaud had returned to 
"Grandmorin; there was another who owed him a famous 
debt of gratitude. The mother of a child who had died, she 
became wet-nurse to Severine, whose birth had sent her 
mamma into the grave. Later on, as wife of a fireman of 
the company, who spent all he earned in drink, she waa 
leading a wretched existence in Paris by the aid of a little 
sewing, when, happening to meet her foster-daughter, the 
former intimacy had been renewed, while the President, at 
the same time, took her under his protection, He had now 



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The Monomaniac 13 

obtained for her the post of attendant at the lavatory for 
ladies. The company gave her no more than 100 frcs., 
but she made nearly 1,400 frcs. out of the gratuities, without 
counting the lodging, this room where they were lunching, 
and her coals. Indeed, she had a most comfortable post. 
And Roubaud calculated that if Pecqueux, the husband, had 
brought home the 2,800 frcs. which he earned as fireman, 
wages and gratuities together, instead of running riot at both 
ends of the line, they would have had between them more 
than 4,000 frcs. a year, double what he received as assistant 
station-master at Havre. 1 

In the meanwhile, theifsnarp hunger had become appeased, 
and they dawdled over the rest of the meal, cutting the cheese 
into small pieces to make the feast last longer. Conversation 
also flagged. 

" By the way," said he, " why did you decline the invitation 
of the President to go to Doinville for two or three days ? " 

In the comfort of a good digestion, he had just been 
running over in his mind, the incidents of their visit in the 
morning to the mansion in the Rue du Rocher, quite close 
to the station ; he had seen himself again in the large, stern 
study, and he again heard the President telling them that 
he was leaving on the morrow for Doinville. Then, as if 
acting on a sudden impulse, the latter had suggested taking 
the 6.30 express with them that evening, and conducting 
his god-daughter on a visit to his sister, who had been 
wanting to see her for a long time. But the young woman 
had given all kinds of reasons which prevented her, she said, 
from accepting the invitation. 

" For my part," he remarked, " I saw no inconvenience in 
this little trip. You might have remained there till Thursday. 
I should have been able to manage without you ; don't you 
think so? We have need of them in our position. It is 
rather silly to show indifference to their politeness, and the 
more so as your refusal seemed to cause him real pain. And 



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14 The Monomaniac 

that was why I never ceased pressing you to accept, until you 
tugged at my coat ; and then I spoke as you did, but without 
understanding what it meant. Eh ! why wouldn't you go ? " 
S£verine, with restless eyes, gave a gesture of impatience. 
" How could I leave you all alone ? " she exclaimed. 
"That isn't a reason," he replied. "During the three 
years we have been married, you have paid two visits of a 
week to Doinville. There was nothing to prevent you going 
there a third time. ,, 

The young woman, more and more uneasy, turned away 
her head. 

" Well, I didn't care about it," said she. " You don't want 
to force me to do things that displease me." 

Roubaud opened his arms, as if to say that he had no inten- 
tion of forcing her to do anything. Nevertheless, he resumed : 
"Look here, you are hiding something. Did Madame 
Bonnehon receive you badly the last time you went there ? " 

Oh ! no ; Madame Bonnehon had always welcomed her 
with great kindness, she was so amiable. TalJ, and well 
developed, with magnificent light hair, she still remained 
beautiful, notwithstanding her fifty-five years. Gossip had 
it that since her widowhood, and even during the lifetime 
of her husband, her heart had frequently been occupied. 
They adored her at Doinville, where she made the chiteau 
a perfect paradise. All Rouen society visited there, particularly 
the magistracy; and it was among this body that Madame 
Bonnehon had met with a great many friends. 

" Then own that it was the Lachesnayes who gave you the 
cold shoulder," continued Roubaud. 

It was true that since Berthe had married M. de Laches- 
naye, she had not been on the same terms with S^verine as 
before. This poor Berthe, who looked so insignificant with 
her red nose, was certainly not improving in character. The 
ladies at Rouen extolled her noble bearing in no mean 
measure. But a husband such as she had, ugly, harsh, and 



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The Monomaniac 15 

miserly, seemed likely to communicate his bad qualities to 
his wife, and make her ill-natured. Still, SeVerine had 
nothing in particular to reproach her with, Berthe had been 
agreeable to her former companion. 

" Then it's the President who displeases you down there," 
remarked Roubaud. 

SeVerine, who had been answering slowly and in an even 
tone, became impatient again. 

"He! What an idea!" she exclaimed. 

And she continued in short, nervous phrases. They barely 
caught sight of him. He had reserved to himself a pavilion 
in the park, having a door opening on a deserted lane. He 
went out and came in without anybody knowing anything 
about his movements. His sister . never even knew positively 
on what day he arrived. He took a vehicle at Barentin, and 
drove over by night to Doinville, where he remained for days 
together in his pavilion, ignored by everyone. Ah ! it was not 
he who troubled them down there. 

"I only mention it," said Roubaud, "because you have 
told me, over and over again, that in your childhood, he 
frightened you out of your senses." 

" Oh ! frightened me out of my senses ! " she replied. 
"You exaggerate, as usual. It is a fact that he rarely laughed. 
He stared at you so with his great eyes, that he made you 
hang your head at once. I have seen persons confused, to the 
point of being unable to say a word to him, so deeply were 
they impressed by his great reputation for severity and wisdom. 
But as for me, I was never scolded by him. I always felt 
he had a weakness for me." 

Once more her speech became slow, and her eyes were 
lost in space. 

"I remember," she resumed, "when I was a little girl, 
and happened to be having a game with playmates on the 
paths, that if he chanced to appear, everyone ran into hiding, 
even his daughter Berthe, who was always trembling with 



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1 6 The Monomaniac 

fear lest she should be caught doing something wrong. 
For my part, I calmly awaited him. He came along, and 
seeing me there, smiling and looking up, gave me a pat on 
the cheek. Later on, at sixteen, whenever Berthe wished 
to obtain some favour from him, she always entrusted me with 
the mission of asking it I spoke. I never looked down, 
and I felt his eyes penetrating me. But I did not care a 
fig, I was so sure he would grant whatever I wanted. Ah ! 
yes ; I remember it all. There is not a piece of brushwood 
in the park, not a corridor, nor a room in the chateau that 
I cannot see, when I close my eyes." 

She ceased speaking, and lowered her lids. The thrill of 
incidents of former days seemed to pass over her warm, puffy 
face. She remained thus for a few moments, with a slight 
beating of the lips, something like a nervous twitch, that drew 
down the corner of her mouth as if she were in pain. 

" He has certainly been very good to you," said Roubaud, 
who had just lit his pipe. " Not only did he bring you up 
like a young lady, but he very shrewdly invested the little 
money you had, and increased it when we were married, 
without counting what he is going to leave you. He said in 
my presence that he had mentioned you in his will." 

" Ah ! yes ! " murmured Siverine, " that house at La 
Croix-de-Maufras, the property the railway cut in two. We 
used to go there, occasionally, for a week. Oh ! I don't much 
count on that. The Lachesnayes must be at work to prevent 
him leaving me anything. And, besides, I would rather 
have nothing — nothing at all ! " 

She had uttered these last words in such a sharp tone, that 
he was astonished, and, taking his pipe from his mouth, he 
stared at her with rounded eyes. 

" How funny you are ! " said he. " Everyone knows that 
the President is worth millions. What harm would there 
be in him putting his god-daughter in his will? No one 
would be surprised, and it would be all right for us." 



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The Monomaniac 17 

" Well, I've had enough of the subject," answered SeVerine ; 
" let us talk about something else. I will not go to Doinville 
because I will not, because I prefer to return with you to 
Havre." 

He tossed his head, and appeased her with a motion of the 
hand. Very good, very good ! As the subject annoyed her, 
he would say no more about it. He smiled. Never had he 
seen her so nervous. No doubt it was the white wine. 
Anxious to be forgiven, he took up the knife, went into 
another fit of ecstasy about it, and carefully wiped the blade. To 
show that it cut like a razor, he began to trim his nails with it. 
"Already a quarter past four," murmured Severine, standing 
before the cuckoo clock. "I have a few more errands to 
do. We must think about our train." 

But, as if to get quite calm before making the room tidy, 
she went to the window and leant out of it Then he, 
leaving his knife, leaving his pipe, also rose from the table, 
and, approaching her, took her gently from behind in his 
arms ; and holding her enlaced, placed his chin on her 
shoulder, pressing his head against her own. Neither moved, 
but remained gazing at the scene below them. 

The small shunting engines went and came without in- 
termission. Similar to sharp and prudent housewives, the 
activity of their movements could barely be heard as they 
glided along with muffled wheels and a discreet whistle. 
One of them ran past, and disappeared under the Pont 
de TEurope, dragging the carriages of a Trouville train to 
the coach-house. Over there, beyond the bridge, it brushed 
by a locomotive that had come alone from the depot, like 
a solitary pedestrian, with its shimmering brass and steel, 
fresh and smart for the journey. This engine was standing 
still, and with a couple of short whistles appealed to the 
pointsman to open the line. Almost immediately he switched 
it on to its train, which stood ready made up, beside the 
platform, under the marquee of the main lines. 



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1 8 The Monomaniac 

This was the 4.25 train for Dieppe. A stream of passengers 
hurried forward. One heard the roll of the trucks loaded 
with luggage, and the porters pushing the foot-warmers, one 
by one, into the compartments. The engine and tender 
had reached the first luggage van with a hollow clash, and 
the head-porter could then be seen tightening the screw of 
the spreader. The sky had become cloudy in the direction 
of Batignolles. An ashen crepuscule, effacing the facades, 
seemed to be already falling on the outspread fan of railway 
lines; and, in this dim light, one saw in the distance, the 
constant departure and arrival of trains on the Banlieue and 
Ceinture lines. Beyond the great sheet of span-roofing of 
the station, shreds of reddish smoke flew over darkened Paris. 
\^ SeVerine and Roubaud had remained some minutes at the 
open window without speaking. He had taken her left hand, 
and was playing with an old gold ring, a golden serpent with 
a small ruby head, which she wore on the same finger as 
her wedding-ring. He had always seen it there. 

"My little serpent," she murmured, in an involuntary 
dreamy voice, thinking he was looking at the ring, and feeling 
an imperative necessity to speak. " He made me a present 
of it at La Croix-de-Maufras when I was sixteen." 

Roubaud raised his head in surprise. 

" Who was that ? " he inquired. " The President ? " 

As the eyes of her husband rested on her own, she awoke, 
with an abrupt shock, to a sense of reality. She felt a little 
chill turn her cheeks icy cold. She wished to answer, when, 
choked by a sort of paralysis, she could say nothing. 

"But," he continued, "you always told me it was your 
mother who left you that ring." 

Even at this second, she could have annulled the sentence 
she had thoughtlessly let slip. She had only to laugh, 
to play the madcap. But, losing her self-command, un- 
conscious of the gravity of what she was doing, she obstinately 
maintained her statement. 



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The Monomaniac 19 

" I never told you, my dear," she replied, " that my mother 
left me that ring." 

Thereupon, Roubaud, also turning pale, stared at her 
threateningly. 

" What do you mean," he retorted, " by saying you never 
told me so ? Why, youVe told it me twenty times over ! 
There's no harm in the President giving you a ring. He 
has made you other presents of much greater value. But 
what need was there to hide it from me? Why lie, in 
speaking of your mother ? " 

" I never mentioned my mother, my darling," she persisted. 
"You are mistaken." 

This obstinacy was idiotic. She was aware that she was 
ruining herself, that he could clearly see through her. And 
she then wanted to retrieve her position, to swallow her 
words. But it was too late. She felt her features becoming 
discomposed. Do what she would, the truth burst from all 
her being. The chill on her cheeks had spread all over 
her face, and a nervous twitch dragged down her lip. 

Roubaud looked frightful. He had suddenly become red 
again, so red that it seemed as if his veins were about to 
burst. He had grasped her by the wrists, looking close into 
her face so as to be better able to follow, in the terror- 
stricken distraction of her eyes, what she dared not utter 
aloud. He stammered a great oath, which threw her into 
a fright, and, foreseeing a blow, she bowed her head, covering 
her face with her arm. 

A trifling, wretched, insignificant incident — the failure to 
recollect the falsehood she had told about this ring — had just 
now, in the few words they had exchanged together, supplied 
evidence of a matter she had every desire to conceal. And 
a minute had sufficed to bring this about. 

With a jerk, he threw her across the bed, and struck 
her haphazard with his two fists. In three years he had 
not given her so much as a flip, and now he was beating 



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2o The Monomaniac 

her black and blue, in the brutish fit of passion of a man 
with coarse hands, who had formerly shunted railway carriages. 

Uttering another frightful oath, he exclaimed : 

"You did something wrong! Something wrong! Some- 
thing wrong!" 

As he repeated the words, his rage increased, and he 
belaboured her with his fists, each time he pronounced them, 
as if to drive them into her flesh. His voice at last became 
so thick with anger, that it hissed, and ceased to be in- 
telligible. It was only then that he heard her, quite weak 
from his blows, saying "No." She could imagine no other 
defence. She denied the accusation, so that he might not 
kill her. And this utterance, this obstinate clinging to the 
lie, made him completely furious. 

" Confess that you did something wrong," said he. 

" No, no ! " she answered. 

He had caught hold of her again, supporting her in his 
arms, preventing her from resuming her position with her 
face against the bed-covering, like some poor creature hiding 
herself. He forced her to look him in the face. 

" Confess that you did something wrong," he repeated. 

But, slipping down, she escaped, and tried to gain the door. 
In a bound he was upon her again, his fist raised; and 
furiously, at one blow, near the table, he felled her. He 
threw himself beside her, he seized her by the hair to 
nail her to the boards. For an instant they remained thus, 
on the ground, face to face, without moving. And in the 
frightful silence, could be heard, ascending from the floor 
below, the singing and laughter of the young Dauvergnes, 
whose piano, fortunately, frantically poured forth its notes, 
stifling the sound of the struggle. It was Claire singing 
nursery-rhymes, while Sophie accompanied her with all her 
might. 

" Confess that you did something wrong," said he. 

No longer daring to say no, she remained silent. 



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The Monomaniac 21 

"Confess that you did something wrong," he exclaimed 
with an oath, " or I'll rip you open ! " 

He would have killed her; she could see it distinctly in 
his eyes. In falling, she had perceived the knife, open on 
the table, and now she fancied she saw the flash of the blade 
again. She thought he was extending his arm. She was 
overcome by cowardice, by an abandonment of herself and 
everything, a necessity to have done with the matter. 

" Well, yes," said she, " it's true. Let me go." 

What followed was abominable. This avowal, which he 
had so violently exacted, had just come upon him, point 
blank, like something impossible and monstrous. It seemed 
that he could never have imagined such an infamy. He 
caught hold of her head, and knocked it against a leg of 
the table. She struggled, and he dragged her across the room 
by the hair, scattering the chairs. 

Each time she made an effort to rise he knocked her back 
on the floor by a blow from his fist. And he did this panting, 
with clenched teeth, in savage and senseless fury. The table, 
thrust away, almost upset the stove. Blood and hair were 
sticking to a corner of the sideboard. When they recovered 
breath, stupefied and reeking with this horror, weary of 
striking and of being struck, they had got close to the bed 
again; she, still stretched on the floor, he squatting down, 
holding her by the shoulders. And they had breathing 
time. Below, the music continued. The laughter rippled 
away, sonorous, and very youthful. 

Roubaud, with a jerk, raised S^verine in to 'a sitting posture, 
setting her back against the bedstead. Then, still on his 
knees, weighing down on her shoulders, he could at last 
speak. He had ceased beating her; he tortured her with 
questions. She wept. She was so upset that she could not 
utter a word; and, raising his hand, he half stunned her 
with a blow from his palm. Three times, at intervals, 
receiving no answer, he slapped her face. Why should she 



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22 The Monomaniac 

struggle any longer ? She was already half dead. He would 
have torn out her heart with those horny fingers of a former 
workman. And so, the cross-examination proceeded, with the 
threatening fist uplifted, ready to strike if she hesitated in 
her replies. 

All at once he shook her, and inquired with an oath : 

"Why did you marry me? Don't you know it was 
infamous to deceive me in this manner ? There are thieves in 
prison, who have not half what you have on their conscience. 
So you despised me ? You were not in love with me ? Eh ! 
why did you marry me ? " 

She gave a vague gesture. She did not exactly know, now. 
She was happy to marry him, hoping to get rid of the other. 
There are so many things one would rather not do, and which 
one does, because they are after all the wisest. No, she did 
not love him; and she carefully avoided telling him that 
had it not been for this business, never would she have 
consented to become his wife. 

Severine, by an effort, had risen to her feet. With a vigour 
that was extraordinary in such a weak, vanquished creature, 
she had thrust Roubaud from her. And as she freed her hand 
he felt the ring, the little golden serpent with the ruby head, 
forgotten on her finger. He tore it off, crushed it beneath 
his heel in another fit of rage. Then he began striding up 
and down, from one end of the room to the other, mute 
and distracted. She sank down, seated at the edge of the 
bed, staring at him with her great fixed eyes. And a terrible 
silence ensued. 

The fury of Roubaud was not calmed. No sooner did it 
seem to moderate a little, than it returned at once in great 
waves of increased volume, which bore him along in their 
vertiginous flood. No longer under self-control, he struck 
about in space, a victim to all the gusts of the violent tempest 
lacerating him, only to awaken to the imperative necessity 
of appeasing the howling brute within him. It was a physical, 



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The Monomaniac 23 

an immediate necessity, a thirst for vengeance that wrung his 
body, and which would leave him no repose until it had 
been satisfied. 

Without stopping in his walk, he struck his temples with 
his two fists, and he stammered out in a voice of anguish : 

" What shall I do ? " 

As he had not killed this woman at once, he would not 
kill her now. His cowardice in allowing her to live exasperated 
his anger, for it was cowardly. It was because he still cared 
for her that he had not strangled her. Nevertheless, he 
could not keep her with him, after what he had discovered. 
Then he would have to drive her out, put her into the street, 
never to see her again ? And at this thought, a fresh flood 
of suffering overwhelmed him. He experienced an execrable 
feeling of disgust when he recognised that he would not even 
do this. What then? It only remained for him to accept 
the abomination, and to take this woman back to Havre, there 
to continue to live quietly together, as if nothing had occurred. 
No, no ! Death rather. Death for both of them that very 
instant ! He was stirred with such intense distress that his 
head seemed to have gone astray, and he cried out louder 
than before : 

"What shall I do?" 
. Severine, from the bed, where she remained seated, con- 
tinued following him with her great eyes. She had always 
felt the calm affection of a comrade for him, and the exces- 
sive grief in which she now saw him plunged, aroused her 
pity. The ugly words and blows she would have excused, 
if this wild fit of passion had caused her less surprise — a 
surprise that she had not yet got over. Passive and docile, 
she had consented to her marriage simply from a desire to 
settle down, and she was at a loss to understand such an 
outburst of jealousy about a former error which she repented. 

She watched her husband, going and coming, turning 
furiously round, as she would have watched a wolf, or an 



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14 The Monomaniac 

animal of some other species. What was the matter with 
him? There were so many husbands without anger. The 
thing that terrified her was to perceive the brute, whose 
presence she had suspected for three years, from certain sullen 
growls, at this moment unchained, mad and ready to bite. 
What could she say to him to avert a misfortune? 

At each turn he came near the bed before her. She 
awaited him there, and had sufficient courage to address him. 

" My dear, listen," said she. 

But he heard not. He went back to the other end of 
the room, like a bit of straw beaten about in a storm. 

"What shall I do ? What shall I do?" he continued asking. 

At last she seized him by the wrist, and retained him a 
minute. 

"My dear, listen," she said. "You know it was I who 
refused to go to Doinville. I should never have gone there 
again. Never ! . Never ! It is you I love." 

" Look here," he answered, ^if I am to live, I must kill 
the other ! I must kill him !— kill him !""A 

His voice rose louder. He repeated thdword, erect, grown 
taller, as if this utterance, in bringing him to a resolution, 
also brought him calm. He ceased speaking. He walked 
slowly to the table, and there, with a gesture of indifference 
looked at the knife, whose shimmering blade was wide 
open. He closed, and put it in his pocket. Then, with 
his arms swinging at his sides, his eyes lost in space, he 
remained at the same place thinking. Obstacles that pre- 
sented themselves to some plan he was elaborating in his 
brain, caused two great wrinkles to appear on his forehead. 
To get the better of his difficulty, he went and opened the 
window, standing before it with his face in the chilly air of 
twilight. His wife in another fright stood up behind him; 
and, not daring to question him, waited with her face to 
the expansive sky, endeavouring to guess what was passing 
in that hard skull. 



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The Monomaniac 25 

In the falling shades of night, the distant houses stood 
out black, and a violescent mist clouded the vast site of the 
station. The deep cutting seemed as if smothered in dust, 
particularly in the direction of Batignolles, and the ironwork 
of the Pont de TEurope began to fade away. Towards Paris 
a final gleam of daylight whitened the windows of the great 
iron marquees, but within they became densely obscure. 
Suddenly one saw a glitter of sparks. The men were lighting 
the gas-lamps along the platforms. Here a great white spot 
was formed by the lantern on the engine of the Dieppe train, 
crowded with passengers. The doors of the compartments 
were already closed, and the driver only awaited the order 
of the assistant station-master on duty, to start. But some 
hindrance had occurred. The red signal of the pointsman 
closed the line, while a small locomotive came and picked 
up a few carriages, which a defective manoeuvre had left 
behind. 

Trains flew along without intermission, in the increasing 
darkness, over the complicated network of rails, threading 
their way through lines of carriages standing motionless on 
sidings. One started for Argenteuil, another for Saint Germain. 
A very long train arrived from Cherbourg. Signals succeeded 
one another, accompanied by whistles and blasts of the horn. 
Lights appeared on every side, one by one : red, green, yellow, 
white. There seemed to be a regular confusion at this 
troubled hour when day glides into night, and it looked as 
if a tremendous smash would ensue. But everything passed 
on. The trains brushed by each other, detaching themselves 
from the entanglement, in a smooth, creeping motion that 
could only be perceived indistinctly in the deep crepuscule. 
But the red light of the pointsman was effaced, the Dieppe 
train blew its whistle, and rolled off. A few drops of rain 
began to fall from the wan sky. It was going to be a wet 
night. 

When Roubaud turned round, it was with a face cloudy 



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26 The Monomaniac 

and obstinate, as if overcast by the shadow of this night that 
was drawing in. He had made up his mind. His plan 
was formed. In the vanishing darkness, he looked at the 
cuckoo clock, and exclaimed aloud : 

" Twenty minutes past five ! " 

He was astounded; one hour, barely one hour, and so 
much to do ! It seemed to him that they had been devouring 
one another there for weeks. 

" Twenty minutes past five ! " he muttered. " We shall 
have enough time." 

Severine, without daring to ask a question, continued 
following him with her anxious eyes. She saw him rummage 
in the cupboard, and bring out some notepaper, a small 
bottle of ink, and a pen. 

" What ! " she exclaimed. " Are you going to write a 
letter? To whom?" 

"To him. Sit down." 

And, as she instinctively drew away from the chair, ignoring 
as yet what he was about to exact from her, he brought her 
back, and weighed her down so heavily as he seated her at 
tjj^ table, that she remained there. 

\^" Write this : * Leave to-night by the 6.30 express, and do 
not show yourself before you arrive at Rouen.' "V 

She held the pen, but her hand trembled. Her fright 
increased at the thought of all the unknown gaping before 
her in those two simple lines. And she had the courage 
to raise her head, and say in a pleading tone : 

"What are you going to do, my dear? I beg you to 
tell me." 

He only repeated, in his loud, inexorable voice : 

"Write, write!" 

Then, with his eyes on her eyes, without anger, without 
ugly words, but with such obstinacy that she felt the weight 
crushing and annihilating her, he answered : 

" What I am going to do, you will see, well enough. And 



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The Monomaniac 27 

listen, what I am going to do, I mean you to do with me. In 
that way we shall remain together. There will be something 
binding between us." 

He terrified her. She drew back again. 

" No, no ; I want to know ! " she exclaimed. " I will not 
write without knowing." 

Then, ceasing to speak, he took her hand — the small, delicate 
hand of a child, and pressed it in his iron fist, with the 
continuous pressure of a vice, until he almost crushed it. He 
was driving his will into her flesh with the pain. She uttered 
a cry. All her spirit was broken, all her will surrendered. 
Ignorant creature as she had remained, in her passive gentle- 
ness, she could but obey. Instrument of love, instrument 
of death. 

" Write, write ! " he repeated again. 

And she wrote painfully, with her poor, sore hand. 

"That's all right; you are very good," said he, when he 
had the letter. "Now tidy the place up a bit, and get 
everything ready. I'll come back and fetch you." 

He was quite calm. He arranged the bow of his tie before 
the looking-glass, put on his hat, and took himself off^She 
heard him double-lock the door, and remove the key. 
Night was drawing in more and more. For an instant she 
remained seated, her ear catching every sound outside. A 
continual, low whine came from the adjoining room in 
occupation of the newspaper woman : no doubt a little dog 
forgotten by its mistress. Below, in the apartment of the 
Dauvergnes, the piano had become silent. There was now 
a merry clatter of stewpans and crockery. The two little 
housekeepers were busy in their kitchen, Claire looking 
after a mutton stew, Sophie picking a salad. And S^verine, 
prostrated, listened to their laughter in the frightful distress 
of this falling night. 

At a quarter past six, the locomotive of the Havre express, 
issuing from the Pont de l'Europe, was switched on to its 



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2 8 The Monomaniac 

train and there secured. Owing to the metals being occupied, 
they had been unable to lodge this train under the marquee 
of the main lines. It waited in the open air beside a prolonga- 
tion of the platform forming a sort of narrow jetty, in the 
gloom of an inky sky, where the poorly furnished row of gas 
lamps displayed but a line of smoky stars. 

A shower had just ceased, leaving behind a trace of icy 
dampness spread over this vast uncovered space, which 
the mist threw back as far as the pale glimmers on the fagades 
in the Rue de Rome. This immense, dreary expanse, bathed 
in water, here and there studded with a gory light, was broken 
up by opaque lumps, engines, and solitary carriages, parts 
of trains in repose on the shunting lines. And from the 
depths of this sheet of darkness came sounds, — giant-like 
respirations, breathless with fever, whistles resembling the 
piercing shrieks of women, distant, lamentable blasts of 
horns mingled with a rumble in the adjoining streets. 
Orders were shouted out to add on a carriage. The engine 
of the express stood motionless, losing by a valve a great 
jet of steam, which ascended into all this obscurity to spread 
into small clouds and sprinkle the boundless veil of mourning 
drawn across the sky with white tears. 

At twenty minutes past six, Roubaud and S£verine appeared. 
She had just returned the key to Mother Victoire, as she 
passed by the lavatory, near the waiting-rooms. And 
Roubaud, impatient and blunt, his hat on the back of his 
head, urged her on, after the fashion of a husband with no 
time to lose, who is being delayed by his wife; while she, 
with her veil drawn tight over her face, advanced slowly as 
if broken down with fatigue. 

Joining the flood of passengers streaming along the platform, 
they followed the line of carriages, on the look-out for an 
empty first-class compartment. The footway became alive 
with porters rolling trucks of luggage to the van at the head 
of the train. An inspector was busy finding seats for a 



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The Monomaniac 29 

numerous family, the assistant station-master on duty, with 
his signal lantern in his hand, glanced at the couplings, 
to see that the spreaders had been properly screwed up. 
And Roubaud, having at length found an empty compartment, 
was about to assist SeVerine to get in, when he perceived 
M. Vandorpe, the head-station-master, strolling along in com- 
pany with M. Dauvergne, his deputy-chief of the main lines, 
both watching the manoeuvre connected with the carriage that 
was being added to the train. Roubaud, exchanging greetings 
with them, found it necessary to stop and have a chat. 

First of all they spoke of the business with the sub-prefect, 
which had terminated to the satisfaction of everyone. Then 
the conversation turned to an accident that had happened in 
the morning at Havre, the news having come by telegraph. 
A locomotive, called La Lison, which on Thursday and 
Saturday took the 6.30 express, had broken its connecting-rod, 
just as the train entered the station; and the repairs would 
give two days' holiday to Jacques Lantier, the driver, who came 
from the same part of the country as Roubaud, and to his 
fireman, Pecqueux, the husband of Mother Victoire. 

SeVerine remained standing before the door of the com- 
partment, while her husband affected great freedom of mind 
in conversation with these gentlemen, raising his voice and 
laughing. But there came a shock, and the train recoiled 
a few yards. It was the locomotive, driving back the first 
carriages to the one that had just been added on, the No. 293, 
so as to have a reserved coupe\ And Henri Dauvergne, 
the son, who accompanied the train as headguard, having 
recognised SeVerine through her veil, had prevented her from 
receiving a knock from the wide-open door, by pulling her 
away without ceremony. Then, excusing himself, smiling, 
very amiable, he explained that the coupe* was for one of the 
directors of the company, who had sent to ask for it half an 
hour before the time for the train to start. She gave a little, 
senseless laugh, and he ran off to attend to his work. 



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30 The Monomaniac 

The clock marked 6.27. Three minutes more. Roubaud, 
who was watching the doors of the waiting-rooms in the 
distance, while chatting with the station-master, suddenly 
left the latter to return to S£verine. But the carriage having 
moved back, they had to make their way to the empty 
compartment a few paces off. Roubaud pushed his wife 
along, and with an effort of the wrist, made her get into 
the carriage; while she, in her anxious docility, looked 
instinctively behind her, to see what was going on. 

A passenger behind time had just arrived, carrying only 
a rug in his hand. He had the broad collar of his blue 
top-coat turned up, and the rim of his bowler hat brought 
down so low over his eyebrows that nothing could be 
seen of his face, in the vacillating gaslight, but a bit of 
white beard. M. Vandorpe and M. Dauvergne advanced 
and followed the passenger, notwithstanding his evident 
desire to avoid being seen. He only greeted them three 
carriages further on, when in front of the reserved coupe*, 
in which he hurriedly took a seat. It was the President. 
Se>erine, in a tremble, sank down on a seat, her husband 
bruised her arm in his grasp, as if in a final act of taking 
possession of her, exulting, now that he was certain of 
doing the thing he had thought out in his mind. 

A minute later the half hour would strike. A newspaper 
seller stubbornly offered the evening editions, a few passengers 
still strolled alonjf the platform finishing cigarettes. But all 
took their seats. The inspectors could be heard coming 
from both ends of the train, closing the doors. And Roubaud, 
who had met with the disagreeable surprise of perceiving 
a sombre form occupying a corner in the compartment which 
he had thought empty, no doubt a woman in mourning, 
who remained mute and motionless, could not restrain an 
exclamation of real anger, when the door opened again, and 
an inspector pushed in a stout man and a stout woman, who 
flopped down on a seat, gasping. 



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The Monomaniac 

They were about to start. The very fine rain had recom- 
menced, drowning the vast, dark expanse, which was crossed 
incessantly by trains that presented nothing distinguishable 
but a moving line of small, bright windows. Green lights had 
been lit, a few lanterns danced on a level with the ground ; 
and there was nothing else, nothing but black immensity, 
where alone appeared the marquees of the main lines, pale 
with a dim reflex of gas. All had disappeared, even the 
sounds had become muffled. The roar of the engine, 
opening its exhaust pipes, to let out a whirling wave of white 
steam, alone could be heard. A cloud ascended, unrolling 
like the winding-sheet of an apparition, and divided by dense 
black smoke springing from some invisible source. The sky 
was once more obscured, a volume of soot flew over nocturnal 
Paris, ablaze with luminosity. 

Then the assistant station-master on duty, raised his lantern 
for the engine-driver to inquire if the line was free. Two 
whistles were heard ; and away, near the box of the pointsman, 
the red light vanished, to be succeeded by a white one. The 
headguard, standing at the door of his van, awaited the order 
to start, which he transmitted. The driver gave a long 
whistle, and opening the regulator, set the locomotive moving. 
They were off. At first the motion was imperceptible, then 
the train roiled along. Darting under the Pont de TEurope, 
it plunged towards the Batignolles tunnel. All that could 
be seen of it were the three lights behind, the red triangle 
looking like gaping wounds. For a few seconds longer, it 
could be followed in the chilling darkness of night. Now 
it flew on its way, and nothing now could stop this train, 
launched at full speed. It disappeared. 



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CHAPTER II 

THE house at La Croix-de-Maufras stands aslant, in 
a garden which the railway has cut in two, and is 
so near the metals that it feels the shock of every train 
passing by. A single journey suffices to bear it away in 
memory. The entire multitude, who have flown along the 
line, are aware of its existence at this spot, without knowing 
aught about it. Always closed, it looks as if deserted in 
distress, with its grey shutters turning green through the 
effects of the rain beating against them from the west. 
Standing in a wilderness, it seems to increase the solitude 
of this out-of-the-way corner, where scarcely a soul breathes 
for three or four miles around. 

The only other house there, is that of the gate-keeper, at 
the angle where the road crosses the rails on its way to 
Doinville, four miles off. Low in build, the walls seamed 
with cracks, the tiles of the root devoured by moss, it 
lies crushed, with a neglectful aspect of poverty, in the 
middle of the garden surrounding it — a garden planted with 
vegetables, enclosed by a quickset hedge, and where a great 
well rises almost as high as the habitation itself. 

The level crossing is just half-way between the two stations 
of Malaunay and Barentin, being three miles from each. 
It is but little used. The old decaying gate rarely roils 
back, save for the stone-drays from the quarries at B^court, 
half a league distant in the forest. It would be difficult 
to imagine a more out-of-the-way place, or one more 

3a 



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The Monomaniac 33 

completely separated from humanity, for the long tunnel 
in the direction of Malaunay, cuts off every road, and the 
only way to communicate with Barentin is by a neglected 
pathway beside the line. Visitors therefore are scarce. 

On this particular evening, as night was drawing in, a 
traveller who had just left a train from Havre, at Barentin, 
followed with long strides the pathway of La Croix-de- 
Maufras. The country thereabouts is but one uninter- 
rupted set of hills and dales, a sort of waving of the soil, 
which the railway crosses on embankments and in cuttings, 
alternately. The continual unevenness of the ground, the 
ascents and descents on either side of the line, make walking 
difficult and add to the feeling of deep solitude. The im- 
poverished, whitish land lies fallow, the hillocks are crowned 
with small woods, while brooks, shaded with willows, run at 
the bottom of the narrow ravines. Certain chalky elevations 
are absolutely bare, and sterile hills succeed one another in 
the silence and abandonment of death. The young, lusty 
traveller hastened his steps, as if to escape from the sadness 
of the twilight, falling so gently over this desolate country. 

In the garden of the gate-keeper, a girl was drawing water 
at the well : a tall lass of eighteen ; fair, robust, with thick 
lips, greenish eyes, a low forehead, and a heavy head of 
hair. She was not pretty, and had the heavy hips and 
muscular arms of a young man. As soon as she perceived 
the traveller coming down the path, she let go the pail and 
ran to the garden gate, exclaiming : 

"Hullo! Jacques!" 

He raised his head. He had just completed his twenty- 
seventh year. He also was tall, and very dark. A handsome 
fellow, with his round face and regular features, which never- 
theless were marred by too heavy a jaw. His thick hair 
curled, as did his moustache, which was so full, so black, 
that it seemed to add to the pallidness of his complexion. 
From his delicate skin, carefully shaved on the cheeks, 

3 



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34 The Monomaniac 

anyone would have taken him for a gentleman, had it not 
been for the indelible imprint of the workman that he bore 
on his engine-driver hands, which were already turning yellow 
with grease, although remaining small and flexible. 

" Good evening, Flore," he simply said. 

But his large dark eyes, studded with golden sparks, had 
become troubled with a reddish cloud, which made them dim. 
The lids were blinking, the eyes turned away in sudden con- 
straint, and he experienced a feeling of uneasiness that went 
so far as to cause him suffering. His whole frame instinctively 
made a movement as if to draw back. 

She, standing motionless, her eyes looking straight at him, 
had perceived this involuntary shudder, that came on him, and 
which he endeavoured to master, each time that he approached 
a woman. It seemed to make her quite serious and sad. 
Then, when he asked her, in view of concealing his embarrass- , 
ment, if her mother was at home, although knowing she was 
unwell and unable to leave the house, the girl only answered 
with a nod, standing aside so that he might come in without 
touching her; and, erect and proud, she returned without a 
word to the well. 

Jacques crossed the small garden at his rapid stride, 
and entered the dwelling. There, in the centre of the first 
room, a sort of large kitchen where the family took their 
meals and lived, Aunt Phasie, as he had called her from 
infancy, was alone, seated near the table on a rush-bottomed 
chair, with her legs wrapped in an old shawl. She was a cousin 
of his father, a Lantier, who had stood godmother to him; 
and who, when he was no more than six, had taken car 
of him, at the time when his father and mother had flown off 
to Paris, and there disappeared. He had then remained at 
Plassans, where, later on, he had followed the classes at the 
]£cole des Arts et Metiers. He bore Aunt Phasie great 
gratitude, and was in the habit of saying that if he had made 
his way, it was entirely due to her. 



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The Monomaniac 35 

When he became a driver of the first class in the Western 
Railway Company, after passing a couple of years on the 
Orleans Railway, he had found his godmother married again 
to a level crossing gate-keeper named Misard, and exiled with 
the two daughters of her first marriage to this out-of-the-way 
place, called La Croix-de-Maufras. At the present time Aunt 
Phasie, although barely forty-five, and who formerly had been 
so tall and strong, looked sixty. Moreover, she had grown 
thin and yellow, and was a prey to constant shivers. 

She welcomed Jacques with joy. 

" What ! is it you, Jacques ? " she exclaimed. " Ah ! my 
bonny lad, what a surprise ! " 

He kissed her cheeks, explaining that he had suddenly 
come into a couple of days' enforced holiday. La Lison, his 
engine, on reaching Havre in the morning, had broken its 
connecting-rod ; and as the repairs would take four-and-twenty 
hours, he would not resume duty until the following evening 
for the 6.40 express. So he had come over to see her. He 
would sleep there, and catch the 7.26 train from Barentin 
in the morning. And he kept her poor, withered hands 
in his own, telling her how anxious her last letter had 
made him. 

"Ah ! yes, my lad, I am not well, I am not at all well. 
How nice of you to have guessed my desire to see you I 
But I know what little time you have of your own, and did 
not dare ask you to run over. Anyhow, here you are, and 
I have so much, so much on my mind!" 

She broke off to cast a timid glance out of the window. 
On the other side of the metals, in the twilight, her husband 
could be perceived in his box, one of those wooden huts 
erected every four or five miles along the line, and connected 
by telegraph to ensure the satisfactory running of the trains. 
While his wife, and, later on, Flore, had been placed in 
charge of the gate at the level crossing, Misard had been 
made a watchman of the line. 



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36 The Monomaniac 

In fear of him hearing her, she lowered her voice, and 
said with a shudder : 

" I verily believe he is poisoning me ! " 

Jacques started in surprise at this disclosure, and his eyes, 
also turning towards the window, were again deadened by 
the peculiar trouble to which he was accustomed, that little 
reddish haze which dimmed their brilliant black full of 
golden sparks. 

" Oh ! Aunt Phasie, what an idea ! " he murmured. " He 
looks such a gentle, weak creature." 

A train had just passed, going in the direction of Havre, 
and Misard had left his box to block the line behind it. 
Jacques looked at him as he pulled up the lever to show 
the red signal. He was a little puny man, with thin, 
discoloured hair and beard, and a lean, hollow-cheeked 
face. Moreover, he was silent, retiring, never angry, and 
obsequiously polite in presence of his chiefs. But he had 
returned to his box to note down in his register the hour 
at which the train had passed, and press the two electric 
buttons, one opening the line at the preceding post, the 
other announcing the coming of the train at the box after 
his. 

" Ah ! you don't know him," resumed Aunt Phasie ; " I 
tell you that he must be giving me some filth. I, who was 
so strong, who would have eaten him up ; and it is he, this 
bit of a man, this insignificant creature, who is devouring me ! " 

She was burning with concealed timorous spite, and un- 
bosomed herself, delighted to have at last found someone 
who would listen to her. What could she have been thinking 
of to have married such a cunning fellow, without a sou 
and miserly, she who was more than five years his senior, 
with two daughters, one already eight, and the other six? 
It was now close on ten years since she had done this 
famous business, and not an hour had passed without her 
repenting it — a poverty-stricken existence, exiled to this icy 



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The Monomaniac 37 

quarter in the north, where she was shivering with cold, 
wearied to death at not having a soul to speak to, not a 
single neighbour. He, formerly a plate-layer, now earned 
1,200 frcs. a year as watchman; she, from the commence- 
ment, had received 50 frcs. for the gate, which was now in 
charge of Flore. Such was the present and future, no other 
hope ; the certainty of living and dying in this hole, far 
away from their fellow creatures. 

" I tell you," she repeated to conclude, " that it is he who is 
tampering with me, and that hell do for me, little as he is." 

The sudden tinkling of an alarum made her cast the same 
anxious glance outside as before. This was the preceding 
post informing Misard that a train was coming in the direction 
of Paris, and the needle of the apparatus, standing in front of 
the window, pointed that way. Stopping the ringing, he went 
out to signal the train by two blasts of the horn, while Flore, 
at the same moment, came and closed the gate. Then, 
planting herself before it, she held the flag up straight in 
its leather case. The train, an express, hidden by a curve, 
could be heard advancing with a roar that grew louder 
as it approached. It passed like a thunderbolt, shaking, 
threatening to carry away the low habitation in a tempestuous 
gust of wind. 

Flore returned to her vegetables; while Misard, after 
blocking the up-line behind the train, went to open the down- 
line, by lowering the lever to efface the red signal, for 
another tinkling, accompanied by the rise of the other needle, 
had just warned him that the train which had gone by five 
minutes previously was clear of the next post. He returned 
to his box, communicated with the two watchmen, jotted 
down the passing of the train, and waited. It was always the 
same kind of work that he did, for twelve consecutive hours, 
living there, eating there, without reading half a dozen lines 
of a newspaper, without appearing even to have a single 
thought in his slanting skull. 



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38 The Monomaniac 

" Perhaps he is jealous," suggested Jacques. 

But Aunt Phasie shrugged her shoulders in pity. 

" Ah ! my lad, what is that you say ? He jealous ! " 

Then, with the old shiver upon her, she added : 

"No, no, he never cared for me. All he cares for is 
money. Why we quarrelled, you see, was because I would 
not give him the 1,000 frcs. I inherited from father last year. 
Then, just as he threatened me that it would bring me bad 
luck, I fell ill And the complaint has not left me since. 
Yes, it is exactly from that time that I have been unwell." 

The young man understood her idea ; and, attributing it to 
the gloomy thoughts of a sick woman, he still endeavoured 
to dissuade her. But she obstinately shook her head, like 
a person who has made up her mind. So that he ended by 
saying : 

"Very well then, the remedy is as simple as can be. 
If you want to put an end to the thing, give him your 
1,000 frcs." 

By an extraordinary effort she rose to her feet; and, re- 
suscitated, as it were, she violently answered: 

" My 1,000 frcs. ? Never ! I would sooner burst. Ah ! 
they are hidden, and well hidden, take my word ! The house 
may be turned upside down, but I defy anyone to find them. 
And he has had a good try, the demon ! I have heard him 
at night time, sounding all the walls. Search, search I The 
mere pleasure of watching his nose grow longer, would suffice 
to give me patience. We shall see who will give up first, him 
or me. I am on my guard, and swallow nothing that he 
touches. And if I kick the bucket, well, he will not even 
then get my 1,000 frcs. I prefer leaving them to the earth." 

She sank back into the chair exhausted, shaking at another 
sound of the horn. It came from Misard, who, standing 
at the door of his box,- this time signalled a train on its 
way to Havre. In spite of her obstinate determination to 
withhold the legacy, she had a secret and increasing fear 



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The Monomaniac 39 

of him, the same kind of fear as that of a giant, for the insect 
he feels devouring him. 

The train signalled, the slow train which had left Paris 
at 12.45, was coming along in the distance with a dull 
rumble. It could be heard issuing from the tunnel and 
puffing louder in the open country. Then it passed amidst 
the thunder of its wheels, and its mass of carriages, with the 
invincible might of a hurricane. 

Jacques, with his eyes raised towards the window, had 
watched the small squares of glass file past. Wishing to 
turn aside the gloomy ideas of Aunt Phasie, he resumed 
in a joking vein : 

"Godmother, you complain that you never see a soul 
in this hole ; but there are people for you ! " 

Failing, at first, to catch his meaning, she looked astounded, 
and inquired : 

"Where are there any people?" Then, understanding, 
she added : " Ah ! yes, those folk who go by. What good 
are they? One does not know them, one cannot chat 
with them." 

He continued in a merry tone: 

"But me, you know me well enough; you often see 
me pass." 

"You, that's true. I know you, and I know the time 
of your train," she answered. " Only, you fly, fly along ! 
Yesterday you did so with your hand. I can't even answer. 
No, no, that's no way of seeing people." 

Nevertheless, this idea of the multitude the up and down 
trains carried along daily before her, amidst the deep 
silence of her solitude, made her pensive, and she turned 
her eyes to the line where night was drawing in. When in 
good health, and she went and came, planting herself before 
the gate, her flag in her hand, she never thought of such 
things. But since she had been remaining for days on 
this chair, with naught to think of but her underhand 



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4° The Monomaniac 

struggle with this man, confused reveries, barely formulated, 
had set her head topsy-turvy. 

It seemed to her so strange that she should be living 
here, lost in the depths of this desert, without a soul in 
whom she could confide, when so many men and women 
filed past in the tempestuous blast of the trains, shaking 
the house, tearing along full steam, day and night continually. 
Certainly all the inhabitants of the earth went by there, 
not only Frenchmen, foreigners also; persons come from 
the most distant lands, as no one could now remain at 
home, and as all people, according to what had been written, 
would soon be but one. This was progress : brothers all, 
rolling along together, yonder towards a land of plenty. 

She endeavoured to count them, to arrive at an average, 
so many for each carriage ; but there were too many, she could 
not manage it. Frequently she fancied she recognised faces : 
that of a gentleman with a light beard, doubtless an 
Englishman who travelled to Paris every week ; that of a 
little dark lady, who went by regularly on Wednesday and 
Saturday. But the flash bore them off, and she was not 
quite sure she had seen them. All the faces became confused, 
blended together, as if alike, disappearing one in the other. 
The torrent ran on, leaving nothing of itself behind. And 
what made her sad at the sight of this constant movement, 
amid so much well-being and so much money, was to feel 
that this panting multitude was ignorant of her being there, 
in danger of death, so that if her husband some night 
polished her off, the trains would continue passing one 
another, close to her corpse, without anyone even suspecting 
the crime within the solitary habitation. 

Aunt Phasie had remained with her eyes on the window, 
and she summed up what she felt; but her feelings were 
too vague to be explained at length. 

" Ah ! it's a fine invention, there's no doubt of it. People 
go along quick, and become more learned. But wild beasts 



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The Monomaniac 41 

remain wild beasts, and people may invent even finer 
machines still ; but, nevertheless, there will be wild beasts 
in spite of all/ 

Jacques tossed his head to say that he thought as she 
did. For a few moments he had been watching Flore, 
who had opened the gate for a quarry dray loaded with two 
enormous blocks of stone. The road only served for the 
B6court quarries, so that the gate was padlocked at night, 
and Flore rarely had to get up to unlock it. Observing 
her chatting familiarly with the quarryman, a dark young 
fellow, Jacques exclaimed : 

"Hullo! Cabuche must be ill, as his cousin Louis is 
in charge of the horses. Poor Cabuche ! Do you often see 
him, godmother?" 

She raised her hands without answering, heaving a great 
sigh. The previous autumn there had been a regular drama 
which had not contributed to improve her health. Her 
younger daughter, Louisette, in service as housemaid with 
Madame Bonnehon at Doinville, had ran away at night, 
half crazy and black and blue, to go and die at the hut 
which her sweetheart, Cabuche, occupied in the middle 
of the forest. All manner of tales had got about reflecting 
on President Grandmorin; but no one dared repeat them 
aloud. Even her mother, who knew what had happened, 
did not like returning to the subject. Nevertheless, she 
ended by saying: 

"No. He never looks in. He is becoming as shy as 
a wolf. Poor Louisette, who was such a pet, so white, so 
sweet ! She really loved me, and would have nursed me, 
she would! Whereas Flore, well, I don't complain of her, 
but she has certainly something wrong with her head, always 
doing just as she likes, disappearing for hours together. 
And then proud and violent ! It is all very sad, very sad." 

Jacques, while listening, continued following the stone- 
dray with his eyes. It was now crossing the line, but the 



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42 The Monomaniac 

wheels had got clogged by the metals, and the driver had to 
clack his whip, while Flore shouted to excite the horses. 

"The deuce 1" exclaimed the young man, "it wouldn't 
do for a train to come along now. There would be a 
smash ! " 

"Oh I there is no fear of that," replied Aunt Phasie. 
" Flore is sometimes funny, but she knows her business. 
She keeps her eyes open. It is now five years since we 
had an accident, thank God. A long time back a man 
was cut to pieces. We have only had a cow, which almost 
upset a train. Ah ! the poor creature ! We found its body 
here, and its head over there, near the tunnel. With Flore 
one can sleep soundly." 

The stone-dray had passed on. The loud shocks of the 
wheels in the ruts could be heard growing less distinct 
in the distance. Then Aunt Phasie returned to the subject 
that constantly occupied her thoughts — the question of health, 
in regard to others as much as herself. 

" And you," she inquired, " are you quite well now ? You 
remember, when you were with us, that complaint you 
suffered from, and of which the doctor could make neither 
head nor tail?" 

His eyes became restless. 

" I am very well, godmother," said he. 

"Truly? It has ail disappeared?" she inquired again. 
"That pain boring into your skull behind the ears, and the 
abrupt strokes of fever, and those periods of sadness, which 
made you hide yourself like an animal at the bottom of 
a hole?" 

As she proceeded, he became more and more troubled, 
and got so dreadfully uneasy that, at last, he interrupted 
her, saying in a brief tone : 

" I assure you I am very well. I feel nothing of all that. 
Nothing at all." 

"Well, so much the better, my lad," said she. "The 



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The Monomaniac 43 

fact of you being ill would not cure me. And then, you're 
of an age to enjoy good health. Ah ! health ! there is 
nothing like it It is all the same very kind of you to have 
come to see me, when you could have been enjoying yourself 
somewhere else. You'll have dinner with us, won't you? 
And you'll sleep up there in the loft, next to the room 
Flore occupies?" 

But another blare of the horn interrupted her. Night 
had closed in, and, turning towards the window, they could 
only confusedly distinguish Misard talking with another man. 
Six o'clock had just struck, and he was giving over his 
service to the night watchman. At length he was about 
to be free after twelve hours passed in this hut, furnished 
only with a small table under the shelf supporting the 
apparatus, a stool, and a stove which threw out so much 
heat, that he was obliged to almost constantly keep the 
door open. 

" Ah ! here he is, he is returning home," murmured Aunt 
Phasie, in a fright again. 

The train signalled was coming, very heavy, very long, 
roaring louder and louder as it approached, and the young 
man had to bend forward to hear what the invalid said, 
feeling pained at the wretched state she was putting herself 
in, and anxious to relieve her. 

"Listen, godmother, if he really has bad intentions, 
perhaps it would stop him if he was to know that I have 
taken up the matter. You would do well to entrust your 
1,000 frcs. to me." 

She gave a final outburst. 
4 "My 1,000 frcs. ! " she exclaimed. "Not to you any more 
than to him ! I tell you I'd sooner die ! " 

At this moment the train passed in its storm-like violence, 
as if it would sweep everything before it The house shook, 
enveloped in a gust of wind. This particular train, on its 
way to Havre, was very crowded, for there was to be a 



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44 The Monomaniac 

fSte on the following day, a Sunday, in connection with 
a launch. Notwithstanding the speed, by the lit-up glass of 
the doors one caught sight of the full compartments, of the 
lines of heads side by side, close together, each with its 
particular profile. They followed one another and disappeared. 

What a multitude! The crowd again, the crowd without 
end, amidst the rolling of the carriages, the whistling of the 
locomotives, the tinkling of the telegraph, the ringing of 
bells ! It was like a huge body, a gigantic being stretched 
across the earth, the head at Paris, the vertebrae all along 
the line, the limbs expanding with the embranchments, the 
feet and hands at Havre and at the other termini. And 
it passed, passed, mechanically, triumphant, advancing to 
the future with mathematical precision, careless as to what 
remained of man on either side of it, who, although concealed, 
was still replete with life, the embodiment of eternal passion 
and eternal love. 

Flore came in first, and lit the lamp, a small petroleum 
lamp without a shade, and laid the table. Not a word did 
they exchange. She barely threw a glance at Jacques, 
who stood before the window with his back turned. A 
soupe-aux-choux was being kept warm on the stove. When 
Misard made his appearance she was serving it. He showed 
no surprise to find the young man there. Perhaps he had 
seen him arrive. He displayed no curiosity to know what 
had brought him there, and asked no questions. A pressure 
of the hand, three brief words, and nothing more. Jacques 
had to take the initiative of repeating the tale about the 
broken connecting-rod, and how he had then thought of 
running over to kiss his aunt. Misard was content to gently 
toss his head, as if to say he considered this quite proper, 
and they sat down, eating slowly, and, at first, in silence. 

Aunt Phasie, who since the morning had not taken her 
eyes from the pot where the soupe-aux-choux was simmering, 
accepted a plateful. But her husband having risen to give 



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The Monomaniac 45 

her the iron-water forgotten by Flore, a decanter in which 
a few nails were rusting, she did not touch it He, humble, 
puny, coughing with a nasty little cough, did not seem to 
remark the anxious look with which she followed his slightest 
movement. When she asked for salt, there being none on 
the table, he told her she would repent of eating so much, 
that it was this that made her ill ; and he rose to take some, 
bringing her a pinch in a spoon, which she accepted without 
distrust, salt purifying everything, as she said. Then they 
spoke of the really mild weather that had prevailed for some 
days, and of a train that had run off the rails at Maromme. 
Jacques began to think that his godmother must suffer from 
nightmare while wide awake, for he could see nothing 
suspicious about this bit of a man, who was so civil, and had 
such expressionless eyes. They remained more than an hour 
at table. Twice Flore disappeared, for a few moments, at 
the signal of the horn. The trains went by, making the glasses 
ring on the table ; but no one paid the least attention. 

Another blare of the hom, and Flore, who had just 
cleared the cloth, withdrew and did not return. She left 
her mother and the two men seated at table before a 
bottle of cider brandy. All three remained thus another 
half hour. Then Misard, whose ferreting eyes had been 
resting for a minute or two on a corner of the ropm, took 
his cap and went out, with a simple good-night. He was in 
the habit of poaching in the little neighbouring brooks, 
which harboured superb eels, and never went to bed without 
examining his lines. 

As soon as he had gone, Aunt Phasie looked fixedly at 
her godson, and exclaimed : 

" Eh ! What do you think of that ? Did you see him 
searching over there with his eyes in that corner? He has 
got an idea that I have hidden my hoard behind the butter- 
jar. Ah ! I know him, I am certain he will move the jar 
to-night to have a look." 



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46 The Monomaniac 

But she began perspiring, and trembling from head to foot. 

" You see, there it is again ! He must have drugged me. 
My mouth is as bitter as if I had been swallowing old sous, 
though God knows I have taken nothing from his hand ! 
It's enough to make one drown oneself. I can't sit up any 
longer to-night. It's better for me to go to bed. So good- 
bye, my lad, because if you leave at 7.26 it will be too early 
for me. And come again, won't you? And let's hope I 
shall still be here." 

He had to assist her to her room, where she got into 
bed, and went off to sleep, exhausted. Left by himself, he 
hesitated, thinking whether it would not be as well if he 
were to retire for the night also, and stretch himself out on 
the hay awaiting him upstairs in the loft. But it was only 
ten minutes to eight ; he had plenty of time for sleep. And 
so, he too went out, leaving the little petroleum lamp alight 
in the empty, slumbering house, shaken ever and anon by 
the abrupt thunder of a train. 

Jacques was surprised at the mildness of the air outside. 
No doubt it would rain again. A uniform milky cloud had 
spread over the sky, and the full moon, concealed behind it, 
lit up the whole vault of heaven with a reddish reflex. He 
could clearly distinguish the country. The land around him, 
the hills, the trees stood out in black against this equal, 
deadened light, soft as that of a night lamp. He walked 
round the little kitchen garden. Then he thought of going 
towards Doinville, as the road in that direction was not so 
steep as the other way. But the sight of the solitary house 
planted aslant on the opposite side of the line having 
caught his attention, he crossed the metals, passing by the 
side gate, the big one being already closed for the night. 

He knew this house very well. He gazed at it on each 
of his journeys, amid the roar and jolting of his engine. It 
haunted him, without him being able to understand why, 
save for a confused sensation that it had something to do 



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The Monomaniac 47 

with his existence. Each time he went up and down the line, 
he first of all experienced a sort of dread lest he should find 
it no longer there, then he felt a kind of uneasiness when 
he perceived it still in the same place. He had never seen 
either the doors or windows open. All he had learnt about 
it was that it belonged to President Grandmorin, and on this 
particular night he was beset by an irresistible desire to 
wander round about it, so as to ascertain something more. 

Jacques remained a long time on the road, facing the iron 
railings. He stepped back, raised himself on his toes, 
endeavouring to form some idea of the place. The railway, 
in cutting through the garden, had only left a small plot 
enclosed by walls in front of the house ; while behind was 
a rather large piece of ground, simply surrounded by a 
quickset hedge. The dwelling, with its distressful-looking 
appearance, had an air of lugubrious sadness in the red 
reflex of this fumy night; and Jacques was about to leave 
it, with a shiver running over his skin, when he noticed a 
hole in the hedge. The idea that it would be cowardly not 
to go in, made him push through. His heart was beating; 
but, immediately, as he passed beside a greenhouse in ruins, 
he stopped at the sight of something dark, in a heap at 
the door. 

"What! Is that you?" he exclaimed, astonished, recog- 
nising Flore. "What are you doing here?" 

She also started with surprise^ Then she answered tran- 
quilly : 

" You can see ; I'm taking cords. They have left a heap 
there, that are rotting, without being used by anybody, and 
as I am always in need of them, I run over and take them." 

And, indeed, seated on the ground, with a stout pair of 
scissors in her hand, she was undoing the bits of cord, cutting 
the knots, when she failed to get them apart. 

"Doesn't the owner come here any more, then?" inquired 
the young man. 



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48 The * Monomaniac 

She began laughing. 

" Oh ! since that affair of Louisette," she replied, " there's 
no fear of the President risking the tip of his nose at La 
Croix-de-Maufras. I can pick up his cords without fear." 

He remained silent for a moment, and seemed troubled by 
the thought of the tragic adventure she alluded to. 

" And do you believe what Louisette said ? " he asked. 

Ceasing to laugh, she suddenly became violent, and ex- 
claimed : 

" Louisette never lied* nor did Cabuche. He is my friend." 

" Perhaps your sweetheart ? " suggested Jacques. 

" He, indeed ! " she replied. " No, no ; he is my friend. 
I have no sweetheart, and I don't want one." 

She raised her powerful head, with its thick yellow mane 
curling very low on the forehead, and from all her massive, 
supple body, burst a savage energy of will. Already a legend 
was growing up about her in the neighbourhood. Stories 
were related of heroic deeds of salvage : a cart torn with a 
mighty jerk from before a train ; a railway carriage stopped 
while descending the declivity at Barentin alone, like some 
furious beast bounding along to encounter an express. Then 
there was the tale of her adventure with a pointsman at the 
Dieppe embranchment, at the other end of the tunnel, a 
certain Ozil, a man about thirty, whom she seemed to have 
encouraged for a short time, but who having been so ill- 
advised as to attempt to take a liberty, had almost met his 
death from a blow she dealt him with a club. Virgin and 
warlike, she disdained the male, which finally convinced people 
that she certainly had something wrong with her head. 

Jacques, hearing her declare that she did not want a 
sweetheart, continued his fun: 

"Then your marriage with Ozil can't be in a good way? 
Yet I've heard it said that you run to meet him every day 
through the tunnel." 

She shrugged her shoulders. 



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The Monomaniac 49 

"Ah! To Jericho, my marriage !" she retorted. "What 
you say about the tunnel makes me laugh. Two miles to 
gallop over in the darkness, with the thought that you may 
get cut in two by a train if you don't keep your eyes open. 
You should hear them snorting in there ! But Ozil worried 
me. He's not the one I want." 

"Then you want someone else?" 

"Ah! I don't know. Ah! faith, no!" 

She had burst into a laugh again, while a slight embarrass- 
ment made her give her attention to a knot in the cords which 
she could not manage to undo. Then, without raising her 
head, as if very much absorbed by her occupation, she said : 

"And you, have you no sweetheart?" 

Jacques, in his turn, became serious. He avoided looking 
at her, his eyes moved restlessly from side to side, and 
were at last fixed on space in the night. Abruptly he 
answered : 

"No." 

" Just so," she continued ; " they told me you held women 
in abomination. And, besides, I've known you for a very 
long time, and you have never said anything nice. Why? 
Tell me." 

As he gave no answer, she made up her mind to leave 
the knot, and look at him. 

" Do you only love your engine ? " she inquired. " People 
joke about it, you know. They pretend you are always 
polishing, and making it shine, as though you had caresses 
for nothing else. If I tell you this, it is because I am 
your friend." 

He looked at her, now, in the pale light of the fumy 
sky. And he remembered her when she was a child. Even 
then, she was violent and self-willed, but she sprang to 
his neck, as soon as he entered the house, with all the 
passionate impulse of a madcap. Later on, having frequently 
lost sight of her, he had found her grown taller each time 

4 



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50 The Monomaniac 

he saw her. She continued to put her arms round his 
neck, troubling him, more and more, by the flame of her 
great light eyes. 

She was now a superb woman, and no doubt she had 
loved him a long time — from childhood. His heart 
began to beat. A sudden sensation told him that he was 
the one she awaited. He felt a swimming in the head, his 
first impulse, in the anguish he experienced, was to flee. 
Love had always made him mad, and he felt bent on murder. 

" What are you doing there, on your feet ? " she resumed. 
" Why don't you sit down ? " 

Again he hesitated. Then, his legs suddenly becoming 
very tired, and himself vanquished by the desire to try love 
once more, he sank down beside her on the heap of cords. 
But he said nothing ; his throat was quite dry. It was she, 
now, the proud, the silent one, who chattered merrily until 
she lost breath, deafening herself with her own verbosity. 

"You see, the mistake mamma made was to marry Misard." 
she began. "He'll play her a nasty trick. I don't care a 
fig, because one has quite enough to do with one's own 
business. Don't you think so ? And, besides, mamma sends 
me off to bed as soon as I want to cut in. So she must do 
the best she can by herself! I pass my time outside the 
house, I do. I am thinking of things for later on. Ah ! you 
know, I saw you go by this morning, on your engine. Look ! 
over there, from those bushes, where I was seated. But you, 
you never look — I'll tell you the things I'm thinking of, but 
not now, later, when we have quite become good friends." 

She had let the scissors slip away from her, and he, still 
silent, had caught hold of her two hands. Delighted, she 
abandoned them to him. But when he carried them to his 
burning lips, she gave an affrighted start. The warrior woman 
awoke, prepared, and warlike. 

" No, no ! Leave me alone ! " she exclaimed. " I won't 
have it. Keep quiet. Let's talk." 



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The Monomaniac 51 

Without heeding her, without hearing what she said, he 
grasped her brutally in his arms, crushing her lips beneath his 
own. She uttered a feeble cry, which was more like a moan, 
so deep, so sweet, that it revealed the tenderness she had so 
long concealed: Then, as he, breathless, ceased his kisses 
and looked at her, he was all at once seized with frenzy, with 
such frightful ferocity, that he glanced round about him in 
search of a weapon, a stone, something, in fact, to kill her 
with. His eyes fell upon the scissors, shining among the bits 
of cord. At a bound, he secured them, and he would have 
buried them in her bosom had not an icy chill brought him 
suddenly to his senses. Casting the scissors from him, he 
fled, distracted, while she imagined he had left her because 
she had resisted his caress. 

Jacques fled in the melancholy night. He ascended at 
full speed a path on the hillside, which brought him down 
to a little dale. The stones he scattered beneath his feet, 
alarmed him, and he tore off to the left among the bushes, 
there he bent round to the right, and came to a bare plateau. 
Abruptly descending from the high ground, he fell into the 
hedge bordering the line; a train flew along, roaring and 
flaming. At first he failed to understand what it could 
be, and felt terrified. Ah ! yes, all this multitude that was 
passing, the continual flood, while he stood there in anguish ! 

He started off once more, climbing the hill and descending 
again. He now constantly encountered the railway line, 
either at the bottom of deep cuttings, resembling unfathom- 
able depths, or else on embankments that shut out the 
horizon with gigantic barricades. This desert country, broken 
up into hillocks, was like a labyrinth without issue, where 
he, in his folly, wheeled round and round in the mournful 
desolation of the fallow land. And he had been beating 
up and down the inclines a long time, when before him 
he perceived the round opening, the black jaw of the tunnel. 
An up-train plunged into it, howling and whistling, leaving 



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52 The Monomaniac 

behind, when it had disappeared, absorbed by the earth, a 
prolonged concussion that made the ground quake. 

Then, Jacques, with weary feet fell down beside the line ; 
and, grovelling on the ground, his face buried in the long 
grass, he burst into convulsive sobs. Great God ! So this 
abominable complaint of which he fancied himself cured, 
had returned ! He had wanted to murder that girl. Kill 
a woman, kill a woman ! This had been ringing in his 
ears from his earliest youth. He could not deny that he 
had taken the scissors to stab her. And it was not because 
she had resisted his embrace. No; it was for the pleasure 
of the thing, because he had a desire to do so, such a 
strong desire, that if he had not clutched the grass, he 
would have returned there, as fast as he could, to butcher 
her. Her, great God ! That Flore whom he had seen grow 
up, that wild child by whom he had just felt himself so 
fondly loved! His twisted fingers tore the ground, his sobs 
rent his throat in a horrifying rattle of despair. 

Nevertheless, he did his utmost to become calm. He 
wanted to understand it all. When he compared himself 
with others, how did he differ from them ? Down there 
at Plassans, in his youth, he had frequently asked himself 
the same question. It is true that his mother Gervaise 
was very young at the time of his birth, barely fifteen and 
a half; but he was the second. She had only just entered 
her fourteenth year when his elder brother Claude made 
his appearance ; and neither Claude nor Etienne, who came 
later, seemed to suffer from having such a child for a 
mother, or a father as young as herself — that handsome 
Lantier, whose heartlessness was to cost Gervaise so many 
tears. Perhaps his two brothers also had his complaint, 
and said nothing about it. Particularly the elder one, who 
was dying with such incensement to become painter, that 
people said he had gone half crazy over his genius. 

The family was not at all right, several of its members 



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The Monomaniac 53 

were wrong in the head. Himself, at certain hours, felt 
this hereditary flaw. Not that he had bad health, for it 
was only the apprehension and shame of his attacks that 
formerly had made him thin. But he was apt to suddenly 
lose his equilibrium, as if there existed broken places, holes in 
his being, by which his own self escaped from him amidst a 
sort of great cloud of smoke that disfigured everything. Then, 
losing his self-control, he obeyed his muscles, listening to 
the mad animal within him. Nevertheless, he did not drink, 
he even deprived himself of an occasional dram of brandy, 
having remarked that the least drop of alcohol drove him 
mad. And he began to think that he must be paying for 
others, the fathers, the grandfathers who had drunk, the 
generations of drunkards, whose vitiated blood he had 
inherited. It seemed like slow poison, which reduced him 
to savagery, taking him back to the depths of the woods, 
among the wolves, devourers of women. 

Jacques had raised himself on an elbow, reflecting, watching 
the dark entrance to the tunnel. Heaving another great sob, 
he sank down again, rolling his head on the ground, crying 
out with grief. That girl, that girl he had wanted to kill ! 
The incident returned to him, acute and frightful, as if the 
scissors had penetrated his own flesh. 

No reasoning appeased him. He had wanted to kill her, 
he would kill her now, if she happened to be there. He 
remembered the first time the complaint had shown itself. 
He was barely sixteen, and one evening, while playing with 
a young girl, a relative, his junior by a couple of years, 
she happened to fall, and he at once sprang at her. In 
the following year he recollected sharpening a knife to bury 
it in the neck of another girl, a little blonde, whom he 
noticed pass before his door every morning. This one had 
a very fat, rosy neck, and he had already selected the place, 
a beauty spot under one of the ears. Then, there were 
others, and others still, quite a procession of nightmares, 



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54 The Monomaniac 

all those whom he had glanced at, with an abrupt desire 
to murder them. Women he had brushed against in the 
street, women whom accident made his neighbours, one 
particularly, a newly married bride seated beside him at 
the theatre, who laughed very loud, and from whom he 
had to run away in the middle of an act, so as not to rip 
her open. 

As he did not know them, why was he so furious against 
them ? For, ^n each occasion, it seemed like a sudden out- 
burst of blind rage, an ever-recurring thirst to avenge some 
very ancient offences, the exact recollection of which escaped 
him. Did it date from so far back, from the harm women had 
done to his race, from the rancour laid up from male to male 
since the first deceptions at the bottom of the caverns ? And, 
in his access, he also felt the necessity to fight, in order to 
conquer and subjugate the female, the perverted necessity 
to throw her dead on his back, like a prey torn from others 
for ever. His head was bursting in the effort to understand. 
He could find no answer to his inquiry. Too ignorant, the 
brain too sluggish, thought he, in this anguish of a man urged 
to acts wherein his will stood for nothing, and the reason 
whereof had disappeared from his mind. 

A train again passed by with the flash of its lights, and 
plunged like a thunder-bolt that roars and expires, into the 
mouth of the tunnel ; and Jacques, as if this anonymous, 
indifferent, and hasty crowd had been able to hear him, 
stood up, swallowing his sobs and taking an innocent attitude. 
How many times at the end of one of his attacks, had he 
started thus, like the guilty, at the least sound? He only 
lived tranquil and happy, when detached from the world on 
his locomotive. When the engine bore him along in the 
trepidation of its wheels at express speed, when he had his 
hand on the reversing- wheel, and was entirely engaged in 
watching the metals and looking out for the signals, he ceased 
thinking, and took deep draughts of the pure air, which 



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The Monomaniac 55 

always blew a gale. And this was why he was so fond of 
his engine. 

On leaving the 6cole des Arts et Metiers, he selected this 
occupation of engine-driver, notwithstanding his bright intel- 
ligence, for the solitude and distraction it gave him. Without 
ambition, having in four years attained the position of driver 
of the first class, he already earned 2,800 frcs. a year, which, 
coupled with the gratuities he received for economy in fuel 
and grease, brought the annual amount of his wages up to 
more than 4,000 frcs., and that satisfied him. He saw 
his comrades of the second and third class, those instructed 
by the company, the engine-fitters they took as pupils, he 
saw almost all of them marry work-girls, women who kept 
in the background, whom one only occasionally caught sight of 
at the hour of departure, when they brought the little baskets 
of provisions; while the ambitious comrades, particularly 
those who came from a school, waited until they were heads 
of depots to get married, in the hope of meeting with some- 
one of the middle class, a lady who wore a hat. For his 
part, he avoided women. What did he care? He would 
never marry. His only future was to roll along alone, to 
roll along always, always, without stay. 

His chiefs pointed him out as a model driver, who did 
not drink and who did not run after petticoats. His tipsy 
comrades made fun of his exaggeration of good conduct, and 
the others were secretly alarmed when they saw him fall into 
his silent, melancholy fits, with eyes dim and ashy counten- 
ance. How many hours did he recollect having passed, all 
those hours of freedom, shut up like a monk in his cell, in 
that little room in the Rue Cardinet, whence the depot at 
Batignolles, to which his engine belonged, could be seen. 

Jacques made an effort to rise. What was he doing there 
in the grass, on this mild and hazy winter night? The 
country remained plunged in shadow. There was only light 
above, where the moon lit up the thin fog, the immense 



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56 The Monomaniac 

ground-glass-like cupola which concealed it from view, with 
a pale yellow reflex. Below, the black earth slumbered in 
the immobility of death. Come ! it must be near nine 
o'clock. The best thing to do would be to return to the 
house, and go to bed. But, in his torpor, he saw himself back 
at the Misards, ascending the staircase to the loft, stretching 
himself on the hay against the plank partition separating him 
from the room occupied by Flore. She would be there, he 
would hear her breathing; and, as he was aware that she 
never locked her door, he would be able to join her. His 
shivering fit returned. He was racked again with such a 
violent sob at the image of this girl, that he once more sank 
to the ground. 

He had wanted to kill her — wanted to kill her ! Great 
God ! He was choking in anguish at the thought that he 
would go and kill her in her bed, presently, if he returned to 
the house. He might well be without a weapon ; he might 
cover his head with his two arms to render himself powerless, 
but he felt that the male, independent of his own will, would 
thrust open the door and strangle the girl, urged to the crime 
by a thirst to avenge the ancient wrong. No, no ! He had 
better pass the night beating about the neighbourhood, than 
return there. Bounding to his feet he fled again. 

Then, once more, for half an hour, he tore across the dark 
country as if an unchained pack of devils followed howling 
at his heels. He ascended the hills, he plunged down into 
the narrow gorges. He went through two streams, one after 
the other, drenching himself to the hips. A bush, barring 
his progress, exasperated him. His only thought was to go 
straight on, further, still further, to flee, to flee from the other 
one, the mad animal he felt within him ; but the beast accom- 
panied him, it flew along as fast as he did. For months he had 
fancied he had driven it from him ; he had pursued the same 
life as other people; and, now, he had to begin again, he 
would have to resume the struggle to prevent the brute 



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The Monomaniac 57 

leaping upon the first woman he chanced to brush against 
in the street. 

Nevertheless, the intense silence and vast solitude appeased 
him a little, and made him dream of a life as mute and 
lonely as this desolate land, where he would stroll about 
always, without ever meeting a soul. He must have turned 
round without noticing it, for he found himself kicking against 
the metals on the opposite side of the line, after describing 
a wide circle among the slopes, bristling with bushes, above 
the tunnel. He started back in the irritable uneasiness of 
once more falling upon the living. Then, with the intention 
of taking a short cut behind a hillock, he lost his way, to 
find it again before the railway hedge, just at the exit from 
the tunnel on the down-line, opposite the field where he had 
been sobbing a short time previously; and, tired to death, 
he remained motionless, when the thunder of a train issuing 
from the bowels of the earth, at first slight, but becoming 
louder and louder every second, attracted his attention. It 
was the Havre express which had left Paris at 6.30 and 
passed by there at 9.25 ; the train he drove every two days. 

Jacques first of all saw the dark mouth of the tunnel lit up, 
like the opening to an oven ablaze with faggots. Then the 
engine burst out with a tremendous crash amidst the dazzling 
splendour of its great round eye the lantern in front whose 
fire bored into the country, illuminating the metals for a 
long way ahead, with a double line of flame. It came like a 
thunderbolt; the carriages followed one another immediately 
afterwards, the small square windows of the doors, brilliant 
with luminosity, displayed compartments full of travellers, 
flying past at such a whirling speed, that there afterwards 
remained a doubt in the mind of the spectator, as to what 
the eye had seen. 

And Jacques, very distinctly, at that precise quarter of a 
second, perceived through the flaming glass of a coup£ window, 
one man holding another down on the seat, and plunging a 



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58 The Monomaniac 

knife into his throat; while a dark heap, perhaps a third 
person, perhaps some articles of luggage fallen from the rack, 
weighed with all its weight on the convulsed legs of the 
victim. But the train had already dashed past, and was dis- 
appearing in the direction of La Croix-de-Maufras, displaying 
naught of itself in the dense obscurity, but the three lights 
at the back — the red triangle. 

The young man, riveted to the spot, followed the train with 
his eyes as its thunder gradually died away, leaving the 
deathlike peacefulness of the surroundings undisturbed. Was 
he sure he had seen what he thought ? And now he hesitated. 
He no longer dared affirm the reality of this vision which 
came and went in a flash. Not one single feature of the two 
actors in the drama remained vivid. The dark heap must 
have been a travelling-rug that had fallen across the body 
of the victim. Nevertheless, he thought he had first of all 
caught sight of a pale profile beneath waves of thick hair. 
But all this became confused, and evaporated as in a dream. 
For an instant, the profile he had evoked reappeared, and 
then definitely vanished. Doubtless it was nothing more 
than imagination ; and all this gave him an icy chill. It 
seemed to him so extraordinary, that at last he admitted he 
must have been the victim of hallucination, due to the 
frightful crisis he had just passed through. 

Jacques walked about for nearly another hour, his head 
loaded with confused thoughts. He felt broken down, but 
relief came, and his fever left him. He ended by turning 
in the direction of La Croix-de-Maufras, but without having 
decided to do so. Then when he found himself before the 
house of the gate-keeper, he was determined he would not 
go in, that he would sleep in the little shed built against 
one of the walls. But a ray of light passed under the door, 
and pushing it open, without giving a thought to what he was 
doing, a strange sight stopped him on the threshold. 

Misard had disturbed the butter-jar in the corner, and, on 



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The Monomaniac 59 

the ground on all fours, a lighted lantern beside him, he was 
sounding the wall with little taps of the knuckle, searching. 
The noise made by the door opening, made him stand up, 
but he did not show the least confusion. He merely re- 
marked in the most natural tone of voice imaginable : 

" Some matches have fallen down." 

And when he had put the butter-jar back in its place, 
he added: 

" I came to fetch my lantern, because a little while ago, 
as I came along, I perceived a man stretched across the line, 
and I believe he's dead." 

Jacques, at first struck at the idea of surprising Misard 
searching for the hoard of Aunt Phasie, which abruptly trans- 
formed his doubt respecting the accusations of the latter into 
certainty, was then so violently upset by this news of the 
discovery of a corpse, that he forgot the other drama — the 
one that was being performed there, in this little out-of-the- 
way dwelling. The scene in the coup£, the brief vision of one 
man slaughtering another, returned to him in a vivid flash. 

"A man on the line!" he exclaimed, turning pale. 
" Where ? " 

Misard was about to relate that he was returning with a 
couple of eels which he had taken from his ground lines, 
and that ;he had first of all run home, as fast as he could, 
to hide them. But he reflected that there was no necessity 
to confide in this young man, and with a vague gesture he 
replied : 

"Over there, about half a mile away. It requires a light 
to find out more." 

At this moment Jacques heard a thud overhead. He was 
so nervous that he started. 

" It's nothing," said Misard. " It's only Flore moving." 

And, in fact, the young man recognised the pit-pat of two 
naked feet on the floor. She had come to listen at the 
half-open door. 



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60 The Monomaniac 

" 111 go with you," Jacques resumed. " Are you sure he's 
dead?" 

"Well, he looked like it," answered the other. "We shall 
soon see with the lantern." 

"What's your opinion?" inquired Jacques. "An acci- 
dent?" 

" Maybe," replied Misard. " Some chap who's got cut in 
two, or perhaps a passenger who jumped out of a carriage." 

Jacques shuddered. 

" Come along quick, quick ! " he exclaimed. 

Never had he been agitated with such a fever to see and 
know. Outside the house, while his companion, without any 
concern, walked along the line swinging his lantern, he ran 
on ahead, irritated at the delay. It was like a physical 
desire, the fire within that precipitates the steps of lovers at 
the hour of meeting. He feared what awaited him yonder, and 
yet he flew there with all the muscles of his limbs. When 
he reached the spot, when he almost stumbled over a dark 
heap lying near the down-line, he remained planted where 
he stood with a shiver running from his heels to the nape of 
his neck. And, his anguish at being unable to see distinctly, 
turned to oaths against the other, who was loitering along, 
thirty paces behind. 

" Come on, come on ! " he shouted. " If he's still alive, 
we may be able to do something for him." 

Misard waddled fofward in his sluggish way. Then, when 
he had swung the lantern to and fro, over the body, he 
muttered : 

" Ah ! the devil take me ! It's all up with him." 

The man, no doubt tumbling out of a carriage, had fallen 
with his face downwards, a couple of feet at the most from 
the metals. Nothing could be seen of his head but a crown 
of thick black hair. His legs were apart. His right arm 
lay as if dislocated, while his left was bent under his chest. 
He was very well attired in a big, blue cloth overcoat, neat 



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The Monomaniac 61 

boots, and fine linen. The body bore no trace of having 
been crushed, but a quantity of blood had run from the throat, 
and soiled the shirt collar. 

"Some gentleman whom they've done for," tranquilly 
resumed Misard, after a few seconds' silent inspection. Then, 
turning towards Jacques, who stood motionless and thunder- 
struck, he continued: 

" He must not be touched. It's forbidden. You will have 
to remain here, and watch over him, while I go to Barentin 
to tell the station-master about it." 

He raised his lantern, and looked at a mile-post. 

" Good !" said he. "Just at post 153." And, placing his 
lantern on the ground beside the corpse, he took himself off 
at his usual loitering gait. 

Jacques, left by himself, did not move, but continued 
gazing at this inert mass that had fallen there, and which 
the uncertain light, just above the ground, only revealed 
indistinctly. The agitation that had made him rush forward, 
the horrible attraction that held him there, ended in 
this keen thought which burst from all his being: the 
other one, the man he had caught sight of with the knife 
in his hand had dared ! He had gratified his desire ! 
He had killed. Ah ! what would he give not to be a 
coward, to be able to satisfy himself at last, to plunge in 
the knife! He, who had been tortured by this thirst for 
ten years! 

In his fever, he felt contempt for himself, and admiration 
for the other; and, above all, he felt the necessity to gaze 
on the victim, the quenchless thirst to feast his eyes on this 
human remnant* this broken dancing-Jack, this limp rag, 
which the stab of a knife had made of a creature. What he 
dreamed of, the other had realised, and it was that. If he 
killed, he would have that on the ground. His heart beat 
fit to break. His prurience for murder became violent ats 
concupiscence, at the sight of this tragic corpse. He took 



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62 The Monomaniac 

a step, approached nearer, after the manner of a child making 
himself familiar with an object he fears. Yes, he would dare, 
he would dare in his turn ! 

But a roar behind his back, made him spring aside. A 
train arrived which he had not heard, being so taken up with 
the contemplation of the body. He would have been crushed 
to pieces had not the warm steam and the formidable puffing 
of the engine warned him in time. The train flew past in its 
hurricane of noise, smoke, and flame. This one also carried 
a great many people. The flood of travellers continued 
streaming towards Havre, for the fSte on the morrow. A child 
was flattening his nose against a window, looking out at the 
black country; profiles of men appeared, while a young 
woman, lowering one of the glasses, threw out a paper 
stained with butter and sugar. Already the joyous train 
was flying away in the distance, listless of the corpse its 
wheels had almost grazed. And the body continued lying 
there on its face, indistinctly lit up by the lantern, amidst the 
melancholy peacefulness of night. 

Then Jacques had a desire to see the wound, while he was 
alone. But he hesitated, in the anxiety that if he touched 
the head, it would, perhaps, be noticed. He reckoned that 
Misard could not be back with the station-master before 
three-quarters of an hour; and as the minutes passed, he 
thought of this Misard, of this puny fellow, so slow, so calm, 
who also dared, who was killing as tranquilly as possible, with 
doses of poison. Then it was easy enough to kill ? Every- 
body killed. He drew nearer the corpse, and the idea of 
looking at the wound stung him so sharply that he was burning 
all over. He wanted to see how it had been done, and what 
had run from it, to see the red hole ! By carefully putting 
the head back into its position, nobody would know anything 
about it. But at the bottom of his hesitation was another 
fear which he had not owned, the dread of blood. He had 
still a quarter of an hour to himself, and he was on the point 



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1 



The Monomaniac 63 

of making up his mind to look, when a slight sound beside 
him, made him start. 

It was Flore, standing gazing at the corpse like himself. 
She was keen on accidents ; as soon as ever the news arrived 
that an animal had been pounded to atoms, or a man cut in 
two by a train, she hurried to the scene of disaster. She had 
just dressed again, and wanted to see v the corpse. Unlike 
Jacques, she did not hesitate. After a first glance, she 
stooped down, raising the lantern with one hand, while with 
the other she took the head, and threw it back. 

" Mind what you're doing," murmured Jacques ; " it's 
forbidden." 

But she shrugged her shoulders. The face appeared in the 
yellow light, the face of an old man, with a large nose and 
the blue, wide-open eyes of one formerly fair. A frightful 
wound was gaping beneath the chin. The throat had been 
cut with a deep, jagged gash, as if the knife had been twisted 
round probing it. The right side of the chest was drenched 
in blood. On the left, in the button-hole of the great coat, 
the rosette of Commander of the Legion of Honour looked 
like a clot of blood that had spurted there. 

Flore uttered an exclamation of surprise. 

" Hullo ! the old man ! " said she. 

Jacques advanced, bending forward as she was doing, 
mingling his hair with her hair, to see better. He was 
choking, gorging himself with the sight Unconsciously he 
repeated : 

" The old man ? The old man ? " 

"Yes, old Grandmorin, the President." 

For another moment she examined this livid face, with 
the distorted mouth and the great, terrifying eyes. Then she 
let go the head, which was beginning to turn icy cold in 
cadaverous rigidity, and the wound closed. 

" He's done larking with the girls ! " she resumed in a 
lower tone. "It's got something to do with one of them,- 



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64 The Monomaniac 

for sure. Ah ! my poor Louisette ! Ah ! the pig ! Serve 
him right ! " 

A long silence ensued. Flore, who had set down the 
lantern, waited, slowly casting glances at Jacques, while he, 
separated from her by the corpse, did not move. He seemed 
as if lost, completely prostrated by what he had just seen. 
It must have been eleven o'clock. The embarrassment due 
to the scene in the evening prevented him speaking the first. 
But a sound of voices was heard. It was her stepfather 
returning with the station-master, and, not wishing to be seen, 
she made up her mind to break the ice. 

" Aren't you going back to bed ?" she inquired. 

He started, and seemed agitated by an inner struggle. 
Then, with an effort, with a recoil full of despair, he answered : 

" No, no ! " 

She made no movement, but her look, with her robust 
arms hanging down beside her, expressed great sorrow. As 
if to ask pardon for her resistance of a short time before she 
became very humble, and added : 

"Then if you are not going back to the house, I shall 
not see you again ? " 

"No, no!" he replied. 

The voices approached, and without seeking to press his 
hand, as he seemed to purposely place this corpse between 
them, without even giving him the familiar good-bye of their 
comradeship of childhood, she withdrew, disappearing in the 
darkness, and breathing hard, as if to stifle her sobs. 

The station-master appeared on the scene almost at once, 
along with Misard and a couple of porters. He also proved 
the identity : it was President Grandmorin sure enough. He 
knew him by seeing him get down at his station each time 
he went to Madame Bonnehon, at Doinville. The body could 
remain where it had fallen, but he would have it covered 
with the cloak a man had brought with him. One of 
the staff had taken the eleven o'clock train at Barentin to 



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The Monomaniac 65 

inform the Imperial Procurator at Rouen. But they could 
not count on the latter before five or six o'clock in the 
morning, for he would have to bring the examining-magistrate, 
the registrar of the Court, and a doctor with him. And so 
the station-master arranged for the body to be guarded. The 
men would take turns throughout the night, one man being 
constantly there on the watch, with the lantern. 

And Jacques, before making up his mind to go and stretch 
himself under some shed at the Barentin station, whence he 
would not set out for Havre before 7.20, remained for a long 
time where he stood, motionless, and worried. Then he 
became troubled at the idea of the examining-magistrate who 
was expected, as if he felt himself an accomplice. Should 
he say what he had seen as the train went by ? At first he 
resolved to speak, as, after all, he had nothing to fear. 
Moreover, there could be no doubt as to his duty. But, then, 
he asked himself, what was the good of it? he could not 
bring one single, decisive fact to bear on the matter, he 
would not dare affirm any detail respecting the murderer. 
It would be idiotic to mix himself up in the business, to 
lose his time, and worry himself, without profit to anyone. 

No, no, he would say nothing! At last, he took himself 
off, but he turned round twice, to see the black heap the 
body made on the ground, in the circle of yellow light shed 
by the lantern. Sharper cold fell from the fumy sky, on 
the desolation of this desert with arid hills. More trains 
had passed. Another, a very long one, arrived for Paris. 
All crossed in their inexorable mechanic might, flying to 
their distant goal, to the future, almost grazing, without 
taking heed of it, the half-severed head of this man whom 
another man had slaughtered. 



5 

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CHAPTER III 

THE following day, a Sunday, five o'clock in the morning 
had just struck from all the belfries of Havre, when 
Roubaud came down under the iron marquee of the station, 
to resume duty. It was still pitch dark ; but the wind, 
blowing from the sea, had increased, and drove along the 
haze, smothering the hills which extend from Saint-Adresse 
to Tourneville; while westward, above the offing, appeared 
a bright opening, a strip of sky, where shone the last stars. 
The gas-lamps under the marquee were still alight, but 
looking pale in the damp chill of this matutinal hour. Shunters 
were engaged in making-up the first train for Montivilliers, 
under the orders of the assistant station-master on night 
duty. The doors of the waiting-rooms had not yet been 
opened, and the platforms stretched forward, deserted, in 
this drowsy awakening of the station. 

As Roubaud left his apartments, upstairs, over the waiting- 
rooms, he found Madame Lebleu, the wife of the cashier, 
standing motionless in the middle of the central corridor, 
on which the lodgings of the members of the staff opened. 
For weeks past this lady had been in the habit of getting 
up during the night to watch Mademoiselle Guichon, the 
office-keeper, whom she suspected of carrying on an intrigue 
with M. Dabadie, the station-master. As a matter of fact, 
she had never surprised the least thing, not a shadow, not 
a breath. And, again on this particular morning, she had 
quickly returned to her own quarters, taking no news back 

66 

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The Monomaniac 67 

with her, save the expression of her astonishment at what 
she had caught sight of in the rooms occupied by the 
Roubauds, during the two or three seconds the husband 
had required to open and shut the door. There she had 
seen the beautiful S£verine, who was in the habit of lying 
abed until nine o'clock in the morning, standing up in the 
dining-room dressed, combed, and booted. And she had 
roused Lebleu to tell him of this extraordinary occurrence. 

On the previous night they sat up until the arrival of 
the Paris express at 11.5, burning to learn what had 
become of the affair with the sub-prefect. But they were 
unable to read anything in the attitude of the Roubauds, 
who returned with faces wearing their everyday expression ; 
and in vain did they listen until midnight : not a sound 
came from the rooms occupied by their neighbours, who 
must have gone to bed at once, and fallen fast asleep. 
Their journey could certainly not have been attended with 
a good result, otherwise S£verine would not have risen at 
such an early hour. The cashier having inquired how she 
looked, his wife had been at pains to describe her: very 
stiff, very pale, with her great blue eyes appearing so bright 
against her black hair ; she was standing quite still, and 
had the aspect of a somnambulist. But they would find 
out all about it in the course of the day. 

Down below, Roubaud found his colleague Moulin, who 
had been on duty during the night ; and as he took over 
the service, Moulin walked along with him for a minute 
or two, posting him up in the few small events that had 
occurred since the previous evening: some vagrants had 
been surprised as they were effecting an entrance into the 
cloakroom; three porters had been reprimanded for indis- 
cipline ; a coupling-hook had just broken while the Monti- 
villiers train was being made-up. Roubaud listened in silence, 
and with calm countenance. He was only a trifle pale, due 
no doubt to a remainder of fatigue, which was also visible 



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68 The Monomaniac 

in his heavy eyes. When his colleague ceased speaking, he 
still seemed to look at him inquiringly, as if he expected 
something more. But what he had heard was all, and he 
bent his head, gazing for an instant on the ground. 

As the two men walked along the platform they reached 
the end of the corrugated iron roofing, and on the right 
stood a coach-house where the carriages in constant use 
remained, such as came in one day, and served to make 
up the trains on the morrow. Roubaud raised his head, 
and was looking fixedly at a first-class carriage with a 
coupi, bearing the No. 293, which as it happened a gas- 
lamp lit up with its vacillating glimmer, when Moulin 
remarked : 

" Ah ! I forgot " 

The pale face of the other coloured, and he was unable 
to restrain a slight movement. 

" I forgot," repeated Moulin ; " that carriage must not leave. 
Do not put it on the 6.40 express this morning." 

A short silence ensued before Roubaud, in a very natural 
voice said: 

" Indeed ! Why is that ? " 

"Because," replied Moulin, "a coup^ has been booked 
for the express of this evening. We are not sure that one 
will come in during the day, so we may just as well keep 
this one." 

" Certainly," replied Roubaud, staring at his colleague. 

But he was absorbed by another thought, and all at 
once, flying into a rage, he exclaimed : 

"It's disgusting! Just see how those fellows do the 
cleaning ! That carriage looks as if it had the accumulated 
dust of a week on it." 

" Ah ! " resumed Moulin. " When trains arrive after 
eleven o'clock at night, there is no fear of the men giving 
the coaches a brush up. It's as much as they will do to 
cast a glance inside of them. The other night, they over- 



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The Monomaniac 69 

looked a passenger asleep on one of the seats, and he only 
awoke the next morning." 

Then, stifling a yawn, he said he was going up to bed. 
But as he went off, an abrupt feeling of curiosity brought 
him back. 

" By the way, what about your affair with the sub-prefect ? " 
he inquired. " It's all settled, I suppose ? " 

"Yes, yes," answered Roubaud. "I made a very good 
journey. I'm quite satisfied." 

"Well, so much the better. And bear in mind that the 
293 does not start," replied the other. 

When Roubaud found himself alone on the platform, he 
slowly went back towards the Montivilliers train, which was 
ready. The doors of the waiting-rooms were open, and 
some passengers appeared : a few sportsmen with their dogs, 
and two or three families of shop-keepers, taking advantage 
of the Sunday — only a few people altogether. But when 
that train had gone, the first of the day, Roubaud had 
not much time to lose. He immediately had to make up 
the 5.40 slow train for Rouen and Paris. 

At this early hour not many servants of the company were 
about ; and the work of the assistant station-master on duty, 
was complicated by all sorts of details. When he had 
superintended the making-up of the train, consisting in each 
carriage being taken from the coach-house and placed on 
a truck, which a gang of men pushed along under the 
marquee, he had to run off to the main building, to give a 
glance at the ticket office, and the luggage booking depart- 
ment. A quarrel breaking out between some soldiers and 
one of the staff, necessitated his intervention. For half an 
hour, in the icy draughts, amid the shivering public, his eyes 
still heavy with sleep, and in the ill-humour of a man jostled 
at every moment in the obscurity, he hurried hither and 
thither without a moment to himself. Then, when the 
departure of the slow train had cleared the station, he 



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7° The Monomaniac 

hastened to the box of the pointsman, to make sure that 
all was right in that quarter. For the through train from 
Paris, which was behind time, was coming in. He returned 
to the platform to see the stream of passengers leave the 
carriages, give up their tickets, and crowd into the omnibuses 
from the hotels, which in those days entered the station, to 
wait under the marquee, where they were separated from the 
line by a mere paling. And then, only, did he find leisure 
to breathe for a moment, the station having again become 
silent and deserted. 

Six o'clock struck. Roubaud sauntered out of the main 
building ; and, beyond, with space before him, he raised his 
head and inhaled the fresh air, watching day at last breaking. 
The wind from the offing had completely driven away the 
mist. It was the clear morning of a fine day. He looked 
northward, in the direction of Ingouville, as far as the trees 
of the cemetery, standing out in a violescent line against 
the whitening sky. Then, turning towards the south and 
west, he observed a final flight of light white clouds floating 
slowly along in a squadron across the sea; while the entire 
east, the immense opening formed by the mouth of the 
Seine, began to be embraced in approaching sunrise. 

In a casual way, he removed his cap, embroidered with 
silver, as if to refresh his forehead in the sharp, pure air. 
This outlook to which he was accustomed, this vast flat 
sweep of dependencies of the station — the arrival on the 
left, then the engine depot, to the right the departure, a 
regular little town — seemed to appease him, to bring him 
back to the calmness of his daily occupations which were 
ever the same. Factory chimneys were smoking above the 
wall of the Rue Charles Lafitte ; and enormous heaps of coal 
could be seen following the line of the Vaubin basin. A 
hum already began to rise from the other docks. The 
whistling of the goods trains, the awakening of the town, the 
briny smell of the sea wafted by the wind, made him think 



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The Monomaniac 7 1 

of the f&e of the day, of this vessel they were about to 
launch, and around which the crowd would be crushing. 

Roubaud, returning inside the station, found the gang of 
shunters commencing to make up the 6.40 express ; and 
thinking the men were putting No. 293 on the truck, all the 
calm that the fresh morning air had brought him, disappeared 
in a sudden burst of anger. With an oath he shouted : 

" Not that carriage ! Leave it alone ! It is not to go 
till to-night" 

The foreman of the gang explained to him that they were 
merely pushing the carriage along, to take another from 
behind it. But, deafened by his own passion, which was 
out of all proportion, he did not hear. 

" You clumsy idiots ! " he exclaimed ; " when you are told 
to leave the thing alone, do so ! " 

Having at length been made to understand, he continued, 
furious, turning his wrath against the inconvenience of the 
station, where it was not even possible to turn a carriage 
round. In fact, the station, one of the first built on the 
line, was not equal to modern requirements. It was unworthy 
of Havre, with its old timber coach-house glazed with small 
panes of glass, and its dismal, naked buildings full of cracks. 

"It's a disgrace. I can't comprehend why the company 
has not knocked it all down." 

The shunters looked at him, surprised to hear him speak 
so freely, he who was generally so well disciplined. Per- 
ceiving their attitude, he all at once ceased his remarks, and, 
silent and stiff, continued to watch the manoeuvres. A line 
of discontent furrowed his low forehead, while his round, 
coloured face, bristling with the reddish beard, took an 
expression of intensely strong will. 

From that moment, Roubaud was in possession of all his 
equanimity. He gave active attention to the express, busying 
himself with every detail connected with it. The couplings 
appearing to him to be badly attached, he insisted on having 



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7 1 The Monomaniac 

them screwed up before his eyes. A mother and two 
daughters, on terms of intimacy with his wife, wanted him 
to seat them in the compartment for ladies only. Then, 
before whistling to give the signal to start, he again made 
sure that the train was in perfect trim ; and he stood watching 
it, as it moved away, with that clear gaze of a man whose 
least carelessness might involve the loss of human lives. 

He had at once to cross the line, to be present at the 
arrival of a train from Rouen, which was just entering the 
station. There he met a man from the Post Office, with 
whom he every day exchanged news. This was a short rest 
for him in his busy early hours, and as no immediate duty 
required his attention, he had time to draw breath. On 
this morning, as was his habit, he rolled a cigarette, and 
chatted gaily. Day had broadened, and the gas-lamps under 
the marquee, had just been extinguished ; but the glazing of 
this extension of the station was so bad, that the light 
continued gloomy. Outside, the vast stretch of sky on which 
the building opened, was already ablaze with a fire of sun- 
rays; while the entire view became rosy, and the smallest 
objects stood out crisp, in this pure air of a fine winter 
morning. 

M. Dabadie, the station-master, usually came down from 
his rooms at eight o'clock, when the assistant station-master 
went to him to make his report. The former was a handsome 
man, very dark, neat in his attire, with the bearing of a 
commercial magnate engrossed in business. Indeed, he 
willingly left the passenger department of the station to his 
assistants, so that he might give particular attention to the 
movement in the docks, to the enormous transit of merchandise ; 
and he was in constant contact with the high commerce 
of Havre, and of the entire world. To-day he came late. 
Roubaud had already pushed the door of his office ajar twice, 
without finding him. On the table lay his letters, which had 
not even been opened. Among them Roubaud had just 



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The Monomaniac 73 

noticed a telegram. Then, as if drawn to the spot by 
fascination, he had been unable to leave the threshold, 
returning, in spite of himself, to cast rapid glances at the 
table. 

At last, at ten minutes past eight, M. Dabadie appeared. 
Roubaud seated himself without speaking, to allow him to 
open the telegram. But the chief was in no hurry. Wishing 
to be pleasant with his subordinate, whom he esteemed, 
he said: 

" I suppose all went well in Paris ? " 

" Yes, sir, I thank you," replied Roubaud. 

He had ended by opening the telegram ; but he did not 
read it. He continued smiling at his assistant, whose voice 
thickened in the violent effort he was making to get the 
better of a nervous twitch contracting his chin. 

" We are very pleased to keep you here," said the station- 
master. 

" And I, sir, am very glad to remain with you," answered 
Roubaud. 

Then, as M. Dabadie made up his mind to run his eye 
over the telegram', Roubaud, who felt a slight perspiration 
moistening his face, watched him. But the agitation which 
he expected to see on the countenance of his chief, did not 
appear. The latter placidly continued perusing the telegram, 
which he eventually threw back on the table. No doubt it 
had to do with a simple detail connected with the service. 
He at once began to open his letters, while his assistant, in 
accordance with daily custom, made his verbal report on the 
events of the night and morning. Only, on this occasion, 
Roubaud hesitated, and had to think before he cduld recall 
what his colleague had told him about the vagrants caught in 
the cloakroom. A few more words were exchanged, and 
when the two deputy chiefs of the docks and slow train 
departments came in, also to make their reports, the station- 
master dismissed Roubaud by a gesture. The newcomers 



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74 The Monomaniac 

brought another telegram, which one of the staff had just 
handed them on the platform. 

"You can go," said M. Dabadie to Roubaud, seeing he 
had stopped at the door. 

But the latter waited with fixed, expectant eyes ; and he 
only went away when the small piece of paper had fallen on 
the table, put aside with the same indifferent gesture as 
before. For a few moments, he wandered under the marquee, 
feeling perplexed and dizzy. The clock pointed to 8.35. 
The next departure was the slow train at 9.50. He. usually 
took advantage of this hour of rest, to stroll round the station, 
and he now walked about for a few minutes without knowing 
where his feet were taking him. Then, as he raised his head, 
and found himself opposite the carriage numbered 293, he 
abruptly turned aside in the direction of the engine-house, 
although he had nothing to attend to in that quarter. The 
sun was now rising on the horizon, filling the air with golden 
dust. But he no longer enjoyed the fine morning. He 
hastened along as if very much occupied, endeavouring to 
overcome the uneasiness caused by the suspense. 

All at once a voice stopped him. 

" Good morning, M. Roubaud ! Did you see my wife ? " 

It was Pecqueux, the fireman, a great, thin fellow of three- 
and-forty, with big bones, and a face tanned by fire and 
smoke. His grey eyes, under a low forehead, his great mouth, 
set in a prominent jaw, had the constant, jovial expression 
of a man addicted to merry-making. 

"What ! Is that you?" said Roubaud, stopping astonished. 
"Ah! yes. Your engine met with an accident. I forgot. 
And so you're not going off again until to-night ? Twenty-four 
hours' holiday. Good business, eh ? " 

" Good business ! " repeated the other, not yet recovered 
from his libations of the previous evening. 

Born at a village near Rouen, he had entered the service 
of the company quite young, as engine-fitter. Then, at thirty, 



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The Monomaniac 75 

tired of the workshop, he had wanted to be a fireman so as 
to become driver. It was then that he married Victoire, who 
belonged to the same village as himself. But years went by, 
and he continued fireman. He would never become driver 
now, being of bad conduct, careless in dress and mode of 
life, a drunkard, and a runner after petticoats. He would 
have been dismissed twenty times over, had it not been for 
the protection of President Grandmorin, and had not his 
superiors become accustomed to his vices, for which he 
condoned by his good humour, and his experience as an old 
workman. He only gave cause for alarm when under the 
influence of drink, for he then became a real brute, capable 
of any violence. 

" Did you see my wife ? " he inquired again, with a broad 
grin. 

"Yes, indeed," answered the assistant station-master ; "we 
saw her. We even had a very nice lunch in your room. Ah ! 
you've a good wife, Pecqueux; and it's wrong of you to be 
unfaithful to her." n 

He gave a broader grin than before. 

"Oh! how can you say such a thing?" he exclaimed. 
"It's she who wants me to enjoy myself!" 

This was true. Victoire, who was two years his senior, 
and who had grown enormously stout, was in the habit of 
slipping five-franc pieces into his pocket, so that he might 
amuse himself when away. She had never suffered much 
from his infidelity ; and, now, their mode of life was settled. 
He had two wives, one at each end of the line. Victoire, 
who knew everything, accepted the position, and even went 
so far as to mend his linen, in order that the other one 
might not be able to say that she allowed their husband 
to go about in rags and tatters. 

" No matter," resumed Roubaud, " it's not at all nice on 
your part. My wife, who is very fond of her foster-mother, 
wants to scold you." 



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7 6 The Monomaniac 

But he held his tongue, on seeing a tall, lean woman come 
from a shed beside which they were standing. She proved 
to be Philomfene Sauvagnat, sister of the chief of the depot, 
and the second Madame Pecqueux. The couple must have 
been talking together in the shed, when Pecqueux came out 
to call to the assistant station-master. Philomfene still looked 
young in spite of her two-and-thirty years, but was raw-boned, 
with a flat chest, a long head, and flaming eyes. She had 
the reputation of drinking. Her occupation consisted in 
keeping house for her brother, who lived in a cottage near 
the engine-depot, which she very much neglected. They 
came from Auvergne, and the brother, an obstinate man and 
a strict disciplinarian, greatly esteemed by his superiors, had 
met with the utmost vexation on account of this sister, even 
to the point of being threatened with dismissal. And, if the 
company bore with her, now, on his account, he only kept her 
with him because of the family tie. But this did not prevent 
him belabouring her so Severely with blows whenever he 
caught her at fault, that he frequently left her half dead on 
the floor. She had commenced an intrigue with Pecqueux 
about a year before ; but it was only S^verine, who had 
fallen out with her, thinking it due to Mother Victoire for 
her to do so. Having already been in the habit of avoiding 
her as much as possible, from a feeling of innate pride, she 
had subsequently ceased to greet her. 

" Well, Pecqueux, I shall see you again, later on ! " said 
Philomfene saucily. " I'll leave you now, as M. Roubaud has 
a moral lecture to read you, on behalf of his wife." 

Pecqueux, who was a good-natured fellow, continued 
laughing. 

" No, no, stay," he answered. " He's only joking." 

" I can't," retorted Philomfene. " I must run and take 
these two eggs from my hens, to Madame Lebleu, to whom 
I promised them." 

She had purposely let fly this name, being aware of the 



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The Monomaniac 77 

secret rivalry between the wife of the cashier, and the wife of 
the assistant station-master, affecting to be on the best of terms 
with the former, so as to enrage the other. But she remained, 
nevertheless, becoming all at once interested, when she heard 
the fireman inquiring for news of the affair with the sub-prefect. 

" So it's all settled ; and you're very glad of it, are you not, 
M. Roubaud ? " inquired Pecqueux. 

"Very pleased indeed," answered the assistant station- 
master. 

Pecqueux gave a cunning wink. 

" Oh ! you had no need to be anxious," said he, " because 
when one has a big-wig behind one, eh ? You know who I 
mean. My wife also is very grateful to him." 

The assistant station-master interrupted this allusion to 
President Grandmorin, by abruptly remarking : 

" And so you only leave to-night ? " 

" Yes," answered the other ; " the repairs to La Lison will 
soon be finished. They're completing the adjustment of the 
connecting-rod. And I'm waiting for my driver, who has 
gone for an airing. Do you know him, Jacques Lantier? 
He comes from the same neighbourhood as yourself." 

Roubaud did not answer for an instant, but stood there 
as if absent-minded. Then, recovering himself with a start, 
he exclaimed : 

" Eh ! Jacques Lantier, the driver ? Of course I know him ! 
Oh ! you understand, enough to say good-day and good-night. 
It was here that we came across one another, for he is my 
junior, and I never saw him down there at Plassans. Last 
autumn he did my wife a little service, in the form of an 
errand to some cousins at Dieppe. He's a capable young 
fellow, according to all I hear." 

He spoke at random, with abundance of verbosity. All at 
once he went off with the remark : 

11 Good day, Pecqueux. I've got to take a look round here." 

It was only then that Philomfene moved away at her long 



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78 The Monomaniac 

stride; while Pecqueux, standing motionless, with his hands 
thrust into his pockets, laughing at ease at his laziness on 
this bright morning, was astonished to see the assistant 
station-master rapidly returning, after limiting his inspection 
to circumambulating the shed. He had not been long 
taking his look round. What on earth could he have come 
to spy out? 

Nine o'clock was on the point of striking, as Roubaud 
returned under the marquee. He walked to the end, near 
the parcel office, where he gave a look, without appearing to 
find what he sought ; and then, impatiently, strode back again, 
peering inquiringly at the offices of the different departments, 
one after the other. The station, at this hour, was quiet and 
deserted. He alone wandered about, more and more enervated 
at this peacefulness, in the torment of a man menaced with 
a catastrophe, who at last ardently hopes for it to come. His 
composure was exhausted. He found it impossible to remain 
for a minute in the same place. Now his eyes never quitted 
the clock. Nine, five minutes past. As a rule he only went 
up to his rooms for the knife-and-fork breakfast at ten, after 
the departure of the 9.50 train. But all at once the thought 
struck him that Severine must also be waiting there in 
expectancy ; and he proceeded to join her. 

In the corridor, Madame Lebleu, at. this precise moment, 
was opening the door to Philomene, who had run round in 
neighbourly fashion, with untidy hair, and held a couple of 
eggs in her hand. They remained on the threshold, so that 
Roubaud had to enter his apartment before their eyes. He 
had his key, and was as quick as he could be. Notwithstand- 
ing, in the rapid opening and closing of the door, they 
perceived SeVerine, seated on a chair in the dining-room, with 
her hands idle, her profile pale, and her body motionless. 
And Madame Lebleu, dragging in Philomene and closing her 
own door, related that she had already seen SeVerine in the 
same state, in the early part of the morning. No doubt the 



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The Monomaniac 79 

business with the sub-prefect was taking a bad turn. But no ; 
and Philomfene explained that she had hastened to make a 
call because she had news ; and she repeated what she had 
just heard the assistant station-master say himself. The two 
women were then lost in conjectures. It was the same at 
each of their meetings — gossiping without end. 

" They've had their hair combed, my dear," said Madame 
Lebleu. " I'd stake my life on it They're tottering on their 
pedestals." 

" Ah ! my dear lady," answered Philomfene, " if we could 
only be rid of them ! * 

The rivalry between the Lebleus and the Roubauds, which 
had become more and more envenomedi simply arose from a 
question of apartments. All the first floor of the main 
station building, served to lodge members of the staff; and 
the central corridor, a regular corridor of a second-rate hotel, 
painted yellow, lighted from above, separated the floor in 
two, with lines of brown doors to right and left. Only the 
windows of the apartments on the right, looked on the 
courtyard facing the entrance, which was planted with old 
elms, and above these an admirable view spread out in the 
direction of Ingouville; while the apartments on the left, 
with semicircular, squatty windows, opened right on the 
marquee of the station, whose high slanting roof of zinc and 
dirty glass barred the horizon from view. Nothing could be 
more gay than the one side, with the constant animation in 
the courtyard, the verdure of the trees, the broad expanse of 
country; nothing more dismal than the other, where it was 
almost impossible to see, and where the sky was shut out as 
in a prison. 

On the front, resided the station-master, the assistant 
station-master Moulin, and the Lebleus; on the back, the 
Roubauds and Mademoiselle Guichon, the office-keeper, 
without counting three rooms reserved to inspectors who 
made occasional visits. It was an established fact that the 



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80 The Monomaniac 

two assistant station-masters had always lodged side by side. 
If the Lebleus were there, it was due to an act of politeness 
on the part of the gentleman who had been succeeded by 
Roubaud, and who, being a widower without children, had 
thought proper to show Madame Lebleu the courtesy of giving 
up his apartments to her. But should not this lodging have 
gone to the Roubauds? Was it fair to relegate them 
to the back of the building, when they had the right to be 
on the front? So long as the two households had lived 
in harmony, S^verine had given way to her neighbour, her 
senior by twenty years, who, moreover, was in bad health, 
being so stout that she was constantly troubled with fits 
of choking. War had only been declared, since the day 
Philom£ne set the two women at variance, by her abominable 
tongue. 

"You know," resumed the latter, "that they are quite 
capable of having taken advantage of their trip to Paris, to 
ask for your ejectment. I am told that they have written 
a long letter to the manager, setting forth their claim. ,, 

Madame Lebleu was suffocating. 

"The wretches!" she exclaimed. "And I am sure they 
have been doing their best to get the office-keeper on their 
side. For the past fortnight she has hardly greeted me. 
There is another one who is no better than she should be 1 
But I'm watching her." 

She lowered her voice to say that Mademoiselle Guichon 
must be carrying on an intrigue with the station-master. 
Their doors faced one another. It was M. Dabadie, a 
widower, and the father of a grown-up daughter still at school, 
who had brought this thirty-year-old blonde to the station. 
Already faded, she was silent, ;slim, and supple as a serpent. 
She must have been a sort of governess. And it was impos- 
sible to catch her, so noiselessly did she glide along through 
the narrowest apertures. 

" Oh I I shall succeed in finding it out," continued Madame 



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The Monomaniac 81 

Lebleu. " I will not be ridden down. We are here, and 
here we remain. All worthy people are on our side. Is it 
not so, my dear?" 

Indeed, all the station was impassioned with this battle of 
the lodgings. The corridor, particularly, was torn asunder by 
it. It was only the assistant station-master Moulin, satisfied at 
being on the front, who did not take much interest in the 
matter. He was married to a little, timid, delicate woman, 
whom nobody ever saw, but who presented him with a baby 
every twenty months. 

" Anyhow," concluded Philomfene, " if they are tottering on 
their pedestals, this shock will not bring them down. Be on 
your guard, for they know someone of great influence." 

She still held her two eggs, and she presented them, eggs 
laid that same morning, which she had just taken from under 
her hens, and the old lady was effusive in thanks. 

" Oh ! how kind of you ! " said she. "You are spoiling me, 
I declare. Come and have a chat* more frequently. You 
know that my husband is always in his counting-house ; and 
I have a tedious time of it, riveted here on account of my 
poor legs ! What would become of me, if those wretches 
were to take away my view ? " 

Then, as she accompanied her, and opened the door, she 
placed a finger on her lips. 

" Hush ! Let us listen," said she. 

Both of them remained standing in the corridor for five full 
minutes, holding their breath, without a movement. They 
bent their heads, with ears turned towards the dining-room of 
the Roubauds; but not a sound came from that direction. 
Deathlike silence reigned within. And, in fear of being 
surprised, they at last separated, giving each other a nod, 
without pronouncing a word. While one went off on tip-toe, 
the other closed her door so gently, that the catch could 
hardly be heard entering the socket. 

At 9.20 Roubaud was again below under the marquee 

6 

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82 The Monomaniac 

superintending the raaking-up of the 9.50 slow train ; and, in 
spite of all his efforts to keep calm, he gesticulated more than 
ever, stamping his feet, and turning round at every moment 
to examine the platform from one end to the other. But 
nothing came, and his hands trembled with impatience. 

Then, abruptly, as he was looking behind him, and searching 
again all over the station, he heard a telegraph boy, out of 
breath, close to him, saying: 

"Monsieur Roubaud, do you know where the station-master, 
and the commissary of police are ? I have got telegrams for 
them, and have been running after them for the last ten 
minutes." 

He turned round with such a stiffening of all his being, that 
not a muscle of his face moved. His eyes were fixed on the 
two telegrams which the lad held in his hand. And this time, 
from the excited look of the latter, he felt convinced that 
the catastrophe had come at last. 

" Monsieur Dabadie passed by here a short time ago," said 
he tranquilly. 

And never had he felt himself so cool, with an intelligence 
so bright, prepared for the defence from head to foot. 

" Look ! " he resumed ; " here is Monsieur Dabadie coming 
towards us." 

In fact, the station-master was returning from the goods 
train department. As soon as he had run his eye over the 
telegram, he exclaimed: 

" There has been a murder on the line. The inspector at 
Rouen telegraphs to me to that effect." 

" What ? " inquired Roubaud ; " a murder among our 
staff?" 

" No, no," answered the station-master. " The murder of a 
passenger in a coupe\ The body was thrown out almost at 
the exit from the tunnel of Malaunay at post 153. And the 
victim is one of our directors, President Grandmorin." 

The assistant station-master immediately exclaimed : 



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The Monomaniac 83 

" The President ! Ah ! my poor wife, what a terrible blow 
it will be for her ! " 

The tone was so natural, so pitiful, that it for a moment 
arrested the attention of M. Dabadie. 

" Ah ! true enough ! " said he ; " you knew him. Such a 
worthy man, was he not ? " 

Then, turning to the other telegram addressed to the 
commissary of police, he added : 

"This must be from the examining-magistrate, no doubt 
for some formality. And, as it is only 9.25, Monsieur Cauche 
is not yet here, naturally. Let someone run to the Cafe du 
Commerce, on the Cours Napoleon. He will be found there 
for certain." 

Five minutes later M. Cauche arrived, brought to the scene 

by a porter. Formerly an officer, he looked upon the post 

he occupied as a sinecure, and never put in an appearance 

at the station before ten o'clock, when he strolled about for 

a moment or two, and returned to the ca&. This drama, 

which had burst upon him between a couple of games at 

piquet, had first of all astonished him, for the matters that 

passed through his hands were not, as a rule, very grave. 

But the telegram came from the examining-magistrate at 

Rouen; and, if it arrived twelve hours after the discovery 

of the body, it was because this magistrate had first of all 

telegraphed to the station-master at Paris, to ascertain under 

what circumstances the victim had set out on his journey. 

Having found out the number of the train, and that of the 

carriage, he had only then sent orders to the commissary 

of police to examine the coup£ in carriage 293 if it still 

happened to be at Harve. The ill-humour that M. Cauche 

displayed at having been disturbed needlessly, as he had 

at first fancied, at once gave place to an attitude of extreme 

importance, proportionate to the exceptional gravity that the 

affair began to assume. 

" But," he exclaimed, suddenly becoming anxious, in fear 



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84 The Monomaniac 

lest the inquiry might escape him, " the carriage will no longer 
be here, it must have gone back this morning. " 

It was Roubaud who reassured him in his calm manner. 

" No, no, excuse me," he broke in. " There was a coup£ 
booked for this evening. The carriage is there in the coach- 
house." 

And he led the way to the building, followed by the com- 
missary and the station-master. In the meanwhile, the news 
must have spread, for the porters, slyly leaving their work, 
also followed; while clerks made their appearance on the 
thresholds of the offices of the different departments, and 
ended by approaching one by one. A small crowd had soon 
assembled. 

As they came to the carriage, M. Dabadie remarked: 

" But the coaches were examined last night. If any traces 
had remained, it would have been mentioned in the report." 

"We shall soon see," said M. Cauche. 

Opening the door, he went up into the coup& And, for- 
getting himself, he immediately exclaimed with an oath: 

" It looks as if they had been bleeding a pig here ! " 

A little thrill of horror ran through all who were present, 
and a number of necks were craned forward. M. Dabadie 
was one of the first who wished to see. He drew himself 
up on the step ; while behind him, Roubaud, to do like the 
others, also craned his neck. 

The inside of the coup£ displayed no disorder. The 
windows had remained closed, and everything seemed in its 
proper place. Only, a frightful stench escaped by the open 
door; and there, in the middle of one of the cushions, a 
pool of blood had coagulated, a pool so deep, and so large, 
that a stream had sprung from it, as from a source, and 
had poured over on the carpet. Clots of blood remained 
sticking to the cloth. And there was nothing else, nothing 
but this nauseous gore. 

M. Dabadie flew into a rage. 



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The Monomaniac 85 

"Where are the men who looked into the carriages last 
night? Bring them here!" 

It so happened that they were there, and they advanced, 
spluttering excuses : how was it possible to see at night time ? 
Nevertheless, they had passed their hands everywhere. They 
vowed they had felt nothing on the previous night 

In the meanwhile, M. Cauche, who remained standing up 
in the compartment, was taking pencil notes for his report. 
He called Roubaud, with whom he was familiar, being in 
the habit of smoking cigarettes with him along the platform, 
in moments of leisure. 

"Roubaud," said he, "just come up here, you will be 
able to help me." 

And when the assistant station-master had stepped over 
the blood on the carpet, so as not to tread in it, the com- 
missary added: 

"Look under the other cushion, to see if anything has 
slipped down there." 

Roubaud raised the cushion, feeling with prudent hands, 
and looks that simply denoted curiosity. 

"There is nothing," said he. 

But a spot on the padded cloth at the back of the seat, 
attracted his attention; and he pointed it out to the com- 
missary. Was it not the mark of a finger covered with 
blood ? No ; they both came to the conclusion that it was 
some blood which had spurted there. The crowd had 
drawn nearer, to watch this inspection of the coup£, sniffing 
the crime, pressing behind the station-master, who, with the 
repugnance of a refined man, remained on the step. 

Suddenly the latter remarked: 

"JJut, 'I say, Roubaud, you were in the train; were you 
not? You returned last night by the express. You can, 
perhaps, give us some information?" 

"Yes, indeed," exclaimed the commissary, "that is true. 
Did you notice anything ? " 



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86 The Monomaniac 

Roubaud, for two or three seconds, remained silent. At 
this moment, he was bending down examining the carpet. 
But he rose, almost at once, answering in his natural voice, 
which was a trifle thick: 

"Certainly, certainly, I will tell you. My wife was with 
me. But if what I am going to say is to figure in the 
report, I should like her to come down, so as to control 
my recollection by her own." 

M. Cauche thought this very reasonable, and Pecqueux, 
who had just arrived, offered to go and fetch Madame 
Roubaud. He started off with great strides, and for a 
moment there was a pause. Philomfene, who had joined the 
crowd with the firemen, followed him with her eyes, irritated 
that he should undertake this errand. But, perceiving 
Madame Lebleu hurrying along as fast as her poor swollen 
legs would carry her, she hastened forward to assist her; 
and the two women raised their hands to heaven, uttering 
passionate exclamations at the discovery of such an abominable 
crime. Although absolutely no details were known, as yet, 
all kinds of versions of what had occurred, circulated around 
them, accompanied by excited gestures and looks. Philomfene, 
whose voice could be heard above the hum of the crowd, 
affirmed, on her word of honour, that Madame Roubaud 
had seen the murderer, although she had no authority 
whatever for the statement. And when the latter appeared, 
accompanied by Pecqueux, there was general silence. 

" Just look at her ! " murmured Madame Lebleu. " Would 
anyone take her for the wife of an assistant station-master, 
with her airs of a princess ? This morning, before daybreak, 
she was already as she is now, combed and laced, as if she 
were going out on a visit" 

S^verine advanced with short, regular steps. She had 
to walk along the whole length of the platform, facing the 
eyes watching her approach. But she did not break down. 
She simply pressed her handkerchief to her eyelids, in the 



Digged by GoOgle 



The Monomaniac 87 

great grief she had just experienced at learning the name 
of the victim. Attired in a very elegantly fashioned black 
woollen gown, she seemed to be wearing mourning for her 
protector. Her heavy, dark hair shone in the sun, for she 
had come down in such a hurry that she had not found 
time, in spite of the cold, to put anything on her head. 
Her gentle blue eyes, full of anguish, and bathed in tears, 
gave her a most touching appearance. 

"She may well cry," said Philomfene in an undertone. 
" They are done for, now that their guardian-angel has been 
killed." 

When S^verine was there, in the middle of all the people, 
before the open door of the coup£, M. Cauche and Roubaud 
got out; and the latter immediately began to relate what 
he knew. Addressing his wife, he said : 

"Yesterday morning, my dear, as soon as we arrived 
at Paris we went to see Monsieur Grandmorin. And it 
was about a quarter past eleven. That is right, is it 
not ? " 

He looked fixedly at her, and she, in a docile tone, 
repeated : 

"Yes, a quarter past eleven." 

But her eyes had fallen on the cushion black with blood. 
She had a spasm, and her bosom heaved with heavy sobs. 
The station-master, who felt distressed, intervened with much 
concern : 

"If you are unable to bear the sight, madam We 

quite understand your grief " 

"Oh! just a few words," interrupted the commissary; 
"and we will then have madam conducted home again." 

Roubaud hastened to continue : 

" It was at this visit that Monsieur Grandmorin, after 
talking of various matters, informed us that he was going 
next day to Doinville, on a visit to his sister. I still see him 
seated at his writing-table. I was here, my wife there. 



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88 The Monomaniac 

That is right, my dear/ is it not? He told us he would be 
leaving on the morrow." 

"Yes, on the morrow," said she. 

M. Cauche, who continued taking rapid pencil notes, 
raised his head : 

" How is that, on the morrow," he inquired, " considering 
he left the same evening?" 

"Wait a moment," replied the assistant station-master. 
" When he heard we were returning that night, he had an 
idea of taking the express with us, if my wife would accom- 
pany him to Doinville, to stay a few days with his sister, 
as had happened before. But my wife, having a great deal 
to do here, refused. That is so, you refused?" 

"Yes, I refused," answered S£verine. 

" Then he was very kind," continued her husband. 
" He had been interesting himself on my behalf. He ac- 
companied us to the door of his study. Did he not, my 
dear ? " 

" Yes, as far as the door," said Severine. 

"We left in the evening," resumed Roubaud. "Before 
seating ourselves in our compartment, I had a chat with 
Monsieur Vandorpe, the station-master. And I saw nothing at 
all. I was very much annoyed, because I thought we should 
be alone, and I found a lady in a corner whom I had not 
noticed; and the more so, as two other persons, a married 
couple, got in at the last moment. So far as Rouen, 
nothing worthy of note occurred. I noticed nothing. But 
at Rouen, as we left the train to stretch our legs, what was our 
surprise to see Monsieur Grandmorin standing up at the door 
of a coup£, three or four carriages away from our compartment. 
• What, Mr. President,' said I, * so you left after all ? Ah ! 
well, we had no idea we were travelling with you ! ' And 
he explained that he had received a telegram. They whistled, 
and we jumped into our compartment, which, by the way, we 
found empty, all our travelling companions having got out 



Digitized by Vw?QQSl£ 



The Monomaniac 89 

at Rouen, and we were not sorry. That is absolutely all, 
my dear, is it not?" 

"Yes, that is absolutely all," she repeated. 

This story, simple though it appeared, produced a strong 
impression on the audience. All awaited the key to the 
enigma with gaping countenances. The commissary ceasing 
to write, gave expression to the general astonishment by 
inquiring : 

"And you are sure no one was inside the coup£, along 
with Monsieur Grandmorin ? " 

" Oh ! as to that, absolutely certain ! " 

A shudder ran through the crowd. This mystery which 
required solving inspired the onlookers with fear, and sent 
a chill down the backs of everyone there. If the passenger 
was alone, by whom could he have been murdered and 
thrown from the coup£, three leagues from there, before the 
train stopped again?" 

Silence was broken by the unpleasant voice of Philomfcne : 

" It is all the same strange," said she. 

And Roubaud, feeling himself being stared at, looked at 
her, tossing his chin, as if to say that he also considered 
the matter strange. Beside her, he perceived Pecqueux 
and Madame Lebleu, tossing their heads as well. All 
eyes were turned towards him. The crowd awaited some- 
thing more, sought on his body for a forgotten detail that 
would throw light on the matter. There was no accusation 
in these ardently inquisitive looks; and yet, he fancied he 
noticed a vague suspicion arising, that doubt which the 
smallest fact sometimes transforms into a certainty. 

"Extraordinary," murmured M. Cauche. 

"Quite extraordinary," assented M. Dabadie. 

Then Roubaud made up his mind. 

"What I am, moreover, quite certain of," he continued, 
"is that the express which runs from Rouen to Barentin 
without stopping, went along at the regulation speed, and 



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90 The Monomaniac 

that I noticed nothing abnormal. I mention this, because, 
as we were alone, I let down the window to smoke a cigarette, 
and glancing outside several times, had a perfect knowledge 
of every sound of the train. At Barentin, noticing my suc- 
cessor, the station-master, Monsieur Bessifere, on the platform, 
I called to him, and we exchanged a few words, as he stood 
on the step, and shook hands. That is so, my dear, is it 
not? The question can be put to Monsieur Bessifere, and 
he will answer, Yes. w 

S^verine, still motionless and pale, her delicate face plunged 
in grief, once more confirmed the statement of her husband 

" Yes, that is correct," said she. 

From this moment any accusation was 'out of the question, 
if the Roubauds, having returned to their compartment at 
Rouen, had been greeted, sitting there, by a friend at Barentin. 
The shadow of suspicion which the assistant station-master 
had noticed in the eyes of the bystanders, vanished, while the 
general astonishment increased. The case was assuming a 
more and more mysterious aspect. 

"Come," said the commissary, "are you quite positive 
that nobody could have entered the coupd at Rouen, after 
you left Monsieur Grandmorin ? " 

Roubaud had evidently not foreseen this question. For 
the first time, he became confused, having no doubt got 
to the end of his ready answers. He looked at his wife, 
hesitating. 

"Oh! no!" said he; "I do not think so. They were 
shutting the doors; they had whistled. We only just had 
time to reach our carriage. And, besides, the coupe was 
reserved, nobody could get in there, I fancy " 

But the blue eyes of his wife opened wider, and grew so 
large, that he was afraid to be positive. 

" After all," he continued, " I don't know. Yes. Perhaps 
someone did get into the coup£. There was a regular 
crush " 



Digitized. byVjU 



The Monomaniac 9 1 

As he continued talking, his voice became distinct again, 
and a new story began to take shape. 

"The crowd, you know, was enormous/' he said, "on 
account of the fetes at Havre. We were obliged to resist an 
assault on our own compartment by second and even third- 
class passengers. Apart from this, the station was badly 
lighted, one could see next to nothing. People were pushing 
about in a clamorous multitude, just as the train was starting. 
Yes, indeed, it is quite possible that someone, not knowing 
where to find a seat, or, may be, taking advantage of the 
confusion, actually did force his way into the coup^, at 
the last second." 

And, turning to his wife, he remarked : 

" Eh ! my dear, that is what must have happened ? " 

S£verine, looking broken down, with her handkerchief 
pressed to her swollen eyes, answered: 

" That is what happened, certainly." 

The clue was now given. The commissary of police 
and the station-master, without expressing an opinion, ex- 
changed a look of intelligence. The seething crowd swayed 
to and fro, feeling the inquiry at an end. All were burning 
to communicate their thoughts; and various conjectures 
immediately found vent, everyone having his own idea. 
For a few moments, the business of the station had been 
at a standstill. The entire staff were there, all their 
attention taken up by this drama; and it was with general 
surprise that the 9.38 train was observed coming in, under 
the marquee. The porters ran to meet it, the carriage doors 
were opened, and the flood of passengers streamed out. 
But almost all the lookers-on had remained round the com- 
missary, who, with the scruple of a methodical man, paid 
a final visit to the gory coup£. 

At this moment, Pecqueux, engaged in gesticulating between 
Madame Lebleu and Philomfene, caught sight of his driver, 
Jacques Lantier, who, having just left the train, was standing 



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92 The Monomaniac 

motionless, watching the gathering from a distance. He 
beckoned to him urgently. At first, Jacques did not move ; 
but, afterwards, making up his mind to go, he advanced 
slowly forward. 

" What's it all about ? " he inquired of his fireman. 

He knew very well, and lent but an inattentive ear to 
the news of the murder and the rumours that were current 
respecting it. What surprised, and particularly agitated him, 
was to tumble into the midst of this inquiry, to again come 
upon this coupe which he had caught sight of in the obscurity, 
launched at full speed. He craned his neck, gazing at the 
pool of clotted blood on the cushion; and, once more, he 
saw the murder scene, and particularly the corpse, stretched 
across the line yonder with its throat open. Then, turning 
aside his eyes, he noticed the Roubauds, while Pecqueux 
continued relating to him the story of how they were mixed 
up in the business — their departure from Paris in the same 
train as the victim, and the last words they had exchanged 
together at Rouen. Jacques knew Roubaud, from having 
occasionally pressed his hand since he had been driving the 
express. As to his wife, he had caught sight of her in the 
distance, and he had avoided her, like the others, in his 
unhealthy terror. But, at this moment, he was struck by 
her, as he observed her weeping and pale, with her gentle, 
bewildered blue eyes, beneath the crushing volume of black 
hair. He continued to look at her; and, becoming absent, 
he asked himself, in surprise, how it was that the Roubauds 
and he were there? How it was that events had brought 
them together, before this carriage steeped in crime — they 
who had returned from Paris on the previous evening, he 
who had come back from Barentin at that very instant? 

" Oh ! I know, I know," said he aloud, interrupting the 
fireman. "I happened to be there, at the exit from the 
tunnel, last night, and I thought I saw something, as the train 
passed." 



Digitized byLjOOQlC 



The Monomaniac 93 

This remark caused great excitement, and everybody 
gathered round him. Why had he spoken, after formally 
making up his mind to hold his tongue ? So many excellent 
reasons prompted him to silence! And the words had un- 
consciously left his lips, while he was gazing at this woman. 
She had abruptly drawn aside her handkerchief, to fix her 
tearful eyes, wide-open, on him. 

The commissary of police quickly approached. 

" Saw what ? What did you see ? " he inquired. 

And Jacques, with the unswerving look of SeVerine upon 
him, related what he had seen : the coupe lit up, passing 
through the night at full speed, and the fleeting outlines of 
the two men, one thrown down backwards, the other with 
a knife in his hand. Roubaud, standing beside his wife, 
listened with his great bright eyes fixed on Jacques. 

"So," inquired the commissary, "you would be able to 
recognise the murderer?" 

" Oh ! as to that, no ! I do not think so," answered the 
other. 

" Was he wearing a coat, or a blouse?" asked the commissary. 

" I can say nothing positively. Just reflect, a train that 
must have been going at a speed of sixty miles an hour ! " 

Severine, against her will, exchanged a glance with Roubaud, 
who had the energy to say : 

" True enough ! It would require a good pair of eyes." 

" No matter," concluded M. Cauche ; " this is an important 
piece of evidence. The examining-magistrate will assist you 
to throw light on it all. Monsieur Lander and Monsieur 
Roubaud, give me your exact names for the summonses." 

It was all over. The throng of bystanders dispersed, little 
by little, and the business of the station resumed its activity. 
Roubaud had to run and attend to the 9.50 slow train, in 
which passengers were already taking their seats. He had 
given Jacques a more vigorous shake of the hand than 
usual ; and the latter, remaining alone with Severine, behind 



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94 The Monomaniac 

Madame Lebleu, Pecqueux, and Philomfene, who went off 
whispering together, had considered himself bound to escort 
the young woman under the marquee, to the foot of the stair- 
case leading to the lodgings of the staff, finding nothing to 
say, and yet forced to remain beside her, as if a bond had 
just been fastened between them. 

The brightness of day, had now increased. The sun, 
conqueror of the morning haze, was ascending in the great 
expanse of limpid blue sky ; while the sea breeze, gaining 
strength with the rising tide, contributed its saline freshness 
to the atmosphere. And, as Jacques at last left S^verine, 
he again encountered those great eyes, whose terrified and 
imploring sweetness had so profoundly moved him. 

But there came a low whistle. It was Roubaud giving 
the signal to start. The engine responded by a prolonged 
screech, and the 9.50 train moved off, rolled along more 
rapidly, and disappeared in the distance, amid the golden 
dust of the sun. 



. PigiM by.CjOOg 



CHAPTER IV 

ONE day, during the second week in March, M. Denizet, 
the examining-magistrate, had again summoned certain 
important witnesses in the Grandmorin case, to his chambers 
at the Rouen Law Courts. 

For the last three weeks, this case had been causing 
enormous sensation. It had set Rouen upside down ; it had 
impassioned Paris; and the opposition newspapers, in their 
violent campaign against the Empire, had just grasped it as 
a weapon. The forthcoming general elections, which occu- 
pied the public mind in preference to all other political 
events, added keen excitement to the struggle. In the 
Chamber there had been some very stormy sittings; one at 
which the validity of the powers of two members attached 
to the Emperor's household, had been bitterly disputed ; and 
another that had given rise to a most determined attack on 
the financial administration of the Prefect of the Seine, 
coupled with a demand for the election of a Municipal 
Council. 

The Grandmorin case, coming at an appropriate moment, 
served to keep up the agitation. The most extraordinary 
stories were abroad. Every morning, the newspapers were 
full of assumptions injurious for the Government. On the one 
hand, the public were given to understand that the victim — 
a familiar figure at the Tuileries, formerly on the bench, 
Commander of the Legion of Honour, immensely rich — 
was addicted to the most frightful debauchery; on the 

95 



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96 The Monomaniac 

other, the inquiry into the case, having so far proved fruit- 
less, they began to accuse the police and legal authorities, of 
winking at the affair, and joked about the legendary assassin 
who could not be found. If there was a good deal of truth 
in these attacks, they were all the harder to bear. 

M. Denizet was fully alive to his heavy responsibility. He, 
also, became impassioned with the case, and the more so as 
he was ambitious, and had been burning to have a matter 
of this importance in his hands, so as to bring into evidence 
the high qualities of perspicacity and energy with which he 
credited himself. 

The son of a large Normandy cattle-breeder, he had studied 
law at Caen, but had entered the judicial department of the 
Government rather late in life ; and, his peasant origin, aggra- 
vated by his father's bankruptcy, had made his promotion 
slow. Substitute at Bernay, Dieppe, and Havre, it had 
taken him ten years to become Imperial Procurator at Pont- 
Audemer; then, sent to Rouen as substitute, he had been 
acting as examining-magistrate for eighteen months, and was 
over fifty years of age. 

Without any fortune, a prey to requirements that could 
not be satisfied out of his meagre salary, he lived in this 
ill-remunerated dependence of the magistracy, only frankly 
accepted by men of mediocre capacity, and where the intelli- 
gent are eaten up with envy, whilst on the look-out for an 
opportunity to sell themselves. 

M. Denizet was a man of the most lively intelligence, 
with a very penetrating mind. He was even honest, and 
fond of his profession, intoxicated with his great power which, 
in his justice-room, made him absolute master of the liberty 
of others. It was his interests alone that kept his zeal within 
bounds. He had such a burning desire to be decorated 
and transferred to Paris, that, after having at the commence- 
ment of the inquiry, allowed himself to be carried away by 
his love of truth, he now proceeded with extreme prudence, 



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The Monomaniac 97 

perceiving pitfalls on all sides, which might swallow up 
his future. 

It must be pointed out that M. Denizet had been warned ; 
for, from the outset of his inquiry, a friend had advised him 
to look in at the Ministry of Justice in Paris. He did so, 
and had a long chat with the secretary, M. Camy-Lamotte, 
a very important personage, possessing considerable power 
over the gentlemen comprising this branch of the civil service. 
It was, moreover, his duty to prepare the list of promotions, 
and he was in constant communication with the Tuileries. 
He was a handsome man, who had started on his career as 
substitute, like his visitor; but through his connections and 
his wife, he had been elected deputy, and made grand officer 
of the Legion of Honour. 

The case had come quite naturally into his hands. The 
Imperial Procurator at Rouen, disturbed at this shady drama 
wherein a former judge figured as victim, had taken the 
precaution to communicate with the Minister, who had passed 
the matter on to the secretary. And here came a coincidence : 
M. Camy-Lamotte happened to be a schoolfellow of President 
Grandmorin. Younger by a few years, he had been on such 
terms of intimacy with him that he knew him thoroughly, 
even to his vices. And so, he spoke of his friend's tragic 
death with profound affliction, and talked to M. Denizet 
of nothing but his warm desire to secure the guilty party 
But he did not disguise the fact that they were very 
much annoyed at the Tuileries, about the stir the business 
had occasioned, which was quite out of proportion to its 
importance, and he had taken the liberty to recommend 
great tact. 

In fact, the magistrate had understood that he would do 
well not to be in a hurry, and to avoid running any risk 
unless previously approved. He had even returned to Rouen 
with the certainty that the secretary, on his part, had sent 
out detectives, wishing to inquire into the case himself. They 

7 

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9 8 The Monomaniac 

wanted to learn the truth, so as to be better able to hide 
it, if necessary. 

Nevertheless, time passed, and M. Denizet, notwithstanding 
his efforts to be patient, became irritated at the jokes of the 
press. Then the policeman reappeared, sniffing the scent, 
like a good hound. He was carried away by the necessity 
of rinding the real track, for the glory of being the first 
to discover it, and reserving his freedom to abandon it 
if he received orders to do so. And, whilst awaiting a 
letter, a piece of advice, a simple sign from the Ministry 
which failed to reach him, he had actively resumed his 
inquiry. 

Not one of the two or three arrests that had been made, 
could be maintained. But, suddenly, the opening of the 
will of President Grandmorin aroused in M. Denizet a sus- 
picion, which he felt had flashed through his mind at the 
first — the possible guilt of the Roubauds. This will, full of 
strange legacies, contained one by which S£verine inherited 
the house situated at the place called La Croix-de-Maufras. 
From that moment, the motive of the crime, sought in vain 
until then, became evident — the Roubauds, aware of the 
legacy, had murdered their benefactor to gain possession of 
the property at once. This idea haunted him the more, as 
M. Camy-Lamotte had spoken in a peculiar way of Madame 
Roubaud, whom he had known formerly at the home of the 
President when she was a young girl. Only, how unlikely ! how 
impossible, materially and morally! Since searching in this 
direction, he had at every step, encountered facts that upset 
his conception of a classically conducted judicial inquiry. 
Nothing became clear; the great central light, the original 
cause which would illuminate everything, was wanting. 

Another clue existed which M. Denizet had not lost 
sight of, the one suggested by Roubaud himself — that of 
the man who might have got into the coup£, thanks to the 
crush, at the moment the train was leaving. This was the 



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The Monomaniac 99 

famous legendary murderer who could not be found, and in 
reference to whom the opposition newspapers were making 
such silly fun. At the outset, every effort had been made 
to trace this man. At Rouen, where he had entered the 
train, at Barentin, where he had left it ; but the result had 
lacked precision. Some witnesses even denied that it could 
have been possible for the reserved coupe to be taken by 
assault, others gave the most contradictory information. And 
this clue seemed unlikely to lead to anything, when the 
magistrate, in questioning the signalman, Misard, came in- 
voluntarily upon the dramatic adventure of Cabuche and 
Louisette, the young girl who, victimised by the President, 
had repaired to the abode of her sweetheart to die. 

This information burst on him like a thunderbolt, and at 
once he formulated the indictment in his head. It was all 
there — the threats of death made by the quarryman against 
his victim, the deplorable antecedents of the man, an alibi, 
clumsily advanced, impossible to prove. In secrecy, on the 
previous night, in a moment of energetic inspiration, he had 
caused Cabuche to be carried off from the little house he 
occupied on the border of the wood, a sort of out-of-the- 
way cavern, where those who arrested the man, found a pair 
of blood-stained trousers. And, whilst offering resistance to 
the conviction gaining on him, whilst determined not to 
abandon the presumption against the Roubauds, he exulted 
at the idea that he alone had been smart enough to discover 
the veritable assassin. It was in view of making this a 
certainty that, on this specific day, he had summoned to his 
chambers several witnesses who had already been heard 
immediately after the crime. 

The quarters of the examining-magistrate were near the 
Rue Jeanne d'Arc, in the old dilapidated building, dabbed 
against the side of the ancient palace of the Dukes of 
Normandy, now transformed into the Law Courts, which it 
dishonoured. This large, sad-looking room on the ground 



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ioo The Monomaniac 

floor was so dark, that in winter it became necessary to light 
a lamp at three o'clock in the afternoon. Hung with old, 
discoloured green paper, its only furniture were two armchairs, 
four chairs, the writing-table of the magistrate, the small 
table of the registrar ; and, on the frigid-looking mantelpiece, 
two bronze cups, flanking a black marble timepiece. Behind 
the writing-table was a door leading to a second room, where 
the magistrate sometimes concealed persons whom he wished 
to have at hand; while the entrance door opened direct 
on a broad corridor supplied with benches, where witnesses 
waited. 

The Roubauds were there at half-past one, although the 
subpoenas had only been made returnable for two o'clock. 
They came from Havre, and had taken time to lunch at a 
little restaurant in the Grande Rue. Both attired in black, 
he in a frock coat, she in a silk gown, like a lady, maintained 
the rather wearisome and painful gravity of a couple who 
had lost a relative. She sat on a bench motionless, without 
uttering a word, whilst he, remaining on his feet, his hands 
behind his back, strode slowly to and fro before her. But 
at each turn their eyes met, and their concealed anxiety 
then passed like a shadow over their mute countenances. 

Although the Croix-de-Maufras legacy had given them 
great joy, it had revived their fears ; for the family of the 
President, particularly his daughter, indignant at the number 
of strange donations which amounted to half the entire fortune, 
spoke of contesting the will; and Madame de Lachesnaye, 
influenced by her husband, showed herself particularly harsh 
for her old friend S^verine, whom she loaded with the gravest 
suspicions. On the other hand, the idea that there existed 
a proof, which Roubaud at first had not thought of, haunted 
him with constant dread : the letter which he had compelled 
his wife to write, so as to cause Grandmorin to leave, would 
be found, unless the latter had destroyed it, and the writing 
recognised. Fortunately, time passed and nothing happened ; 



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The Monomaniac 101 

the letter must have been torn up. Nevertheless, every fresh 
summons to the presence of the examining-magistrate, gave 
them a cold perspiration in their correct attitude of heirs 
and witnesses. 

Two o'clock struck. Jacques in his turn appeared. He 
came from Paris. Roubaud at once advanced, with his hand 
extended in a very expansive manner. 

"Ah! So they've brought you here as well What a 
nuisance this sad business is. It seems to have no end ! " 

Jacques, perceiving S£verine, still seated, motionless, had 
stopped short. For the past three weeks, every two days, 
at each of his journeys to Havre, the assistant station- 
master had shown him great affability. On one occasion 
even, he had to accept an invitation to lunch; and seated 
beside the young woman, he felt himself agitated with his old 
shivers, and quite upset. Could it be possible that he would 
want to slay this one also? His heart throbbed, his hands 
burnt at the mere sight of the white muslin at her neck, 
bordering the rounded bodice of her gown. And he deter- 
mined, henceforth, to keep away from her. 

" And what do they say about the case at Paris ? " 
resumed Roubaud. "Nothing new, eh? Look here, they 
know nothing ; they'll never know anything. Come and say 
how do you do to my wife." 

He dragged him forward, so that Jacques approached 
and bowed to Severine, who, looking a little confused, smiled 
with her air of a timid child. He did his best to chat about 
commonplace matters, with the eyes of the husband and wife 
fixed on him, as if they sought to read even beyond his 
own thoughts, in the vague reflections to which he hesitated 
to lend his mind. Why was he so cold ? Why did he seem 
to do his best to avoid them ? Was his memory returning ? 
Could it be for the purpose of confronting them with him, 
that they had been sent for again? They sought to bring 
over this single witness, whom they feared, to their side, to 



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102 The Monomaniac 

attach him to them by such firm bonds of fraternity that he 
would not have the courage to speak against them. 

It was the assistant station-master, tortured by uncertainty, 
who brought up the case again. 

"So you have no idea as to why they have summoned us ? 
Perhaps there is something new ? " 

Jacques gave a shrug of indifference. 

"A rumour was abroad just now at the station, when I 
arrived, that there had been an arrest," said he. 

The Roubauds were astounded, becoming quite agitated 
and perplexed. What ! An arrest ? No one had breathed 
a word to them on the subject! An arrest that had been 
already made, or an arrest about to take place? They 
bombarded him with questions, but he knew nothing further. 

At that moment, a sound of footsteps, in the corridor, 
attracted the attention of S^verine. 

" Here come Berthe and her husband," she murmured. 

The Lachesnayes passed very stiffly before the Roubauds. 
The young woman did not even give her former comrade a 
look. An usher at once showed them into the room of the 
examining-magistrate. 

" Oh ! dear me ! We must have patience," said Roubaud. 
" We shall be here for at least two hours. Sit you down." 

He had just placed himself on the left of S^verine, and, 
with a motion of the hand, invited Jacques to take a seat 
near her, on the other side. The driver remained standing 
a moment longer. Then, as she looked at him in her gentle, 
timid manner, he sank down on the bench. She appeared 
very frail between the two men. He felt she possessed a 
submissive, tender character, and the slight warmth emanating 
from this woman, slowly torpified him from tip to toe. 

In M. Denizet's room the interrogatories were about to 
commence. The inquiry had already supplied matter for 
an enormous volume of papers, enclosed in blue wrappers. 
Every effort had been made to follow the victim from the 



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The Monomaniac 103 

time he left Paris. M. Vandorpe, the station-master, had 
given evidence as to the departure of the 6.30 express. How 
the coach No. 293 had been added on at the last moment ; 
how he had exchanged a few words with Roubaud, who had 
got into his compartment a little before the arrival of President 
Grandmorin; finally, how the latter had taken possession of 
his coup£, where he was certainly alone. 

Then, the guard, Henri Dauvergne, questioned as to what 
had occurred at Rouen during the ten minutes the train 
waited, was unable to give any positive information. He 
had seen the Roubauds talking in front of the coupl, and 
he felt sure they had returned to their compartment, the 
door of which had been shut by an inspector; but his 
recollection was vague, owing to the confusion caused by the 
crowd, and the obscurity in the station. As to giving an 
opinion whether a man, the famous murderer who could not 
be found, would have been able to jump into the coupi 
as the train started, he thought such a thing very unlikely, 
whilst admitting it was possible ; for, to his own knowledge, 
something similar had already occurred twice. 

Other members of the company's staff at Rouen, on 
being examined on the same points, instead of throwing light 
on the matter, only entangled it by their contradictory answers. 
Nevertheless, one thing proved was the shake of the hand 
given by Roubaud from inside his compartment to the 
station-master at Barentin, who had got on the step. This 
station-master, M. Bess&re, had formally acknowledged the 
incident as exact, and had added that his colleague was 
alone with his wife, who was half lying down, and appeared 
to be tranquilly sleeping. 

Moreover, the authorities had gone so far as to search for 
the passengers who had quitted Paris in the same compart- 
ment as the Roubauds. The stout lady and gentleman who 
arrived late, almost at the last minute, middle-class people 
from Petit-Couronne, had stated that having immediately 



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104 The Monomaniac 

dozed off to sleep, they were unable to say anything; and, 
as to the woman in black, who remained silent in her corner, 
she had melted away like a shadow. It had been absolutely 
impossible to trace her. 

Then, there were other witnesses, the small fry who had 
served to identify the passengers who left the train that night 
at Barentin, the theory being that the murderer must have 
got out there. The tickets had been counted, and they had 
succeeded in recognising all the travellers except one, and 
he precisely was a great big fellow, with his head wrapped 
up in a blue handkerchief. Some said he wore a coat, and 
others a short smock. About this man alone, who had dis- 
appeared, vanished like a dream, there existed three hundred 
and ten documents, forming a confused medley, in which the 
evidence of one person was contradicted by that of another. 

And the record was further complicated by the written 
evidence of the legal authorities : the account drawn up by 
the registrar, whom the Imperial Procurator and the examining- 
magistrate had taken to the scene of the crime, comprising 
quite a bulky description of the spot, on the metal way, where 
the victim was lying ; the position of the body, the attire, the 
things found in the pockets establishing his identity; then, 
the report of the doctor, also conducted there, a document 
in which the wound in the throat was described at length 
in scientific terms; the only wound, a frightful gash, made 
with a sharp instrument, probably a knife. 

And there were other reports and documents about the 
removal of the body to the hospital at Rouen, the length of 
time it had remained there before being delivered to the 
family. But in this mass of papers appeared but one or 
two important points. First of all, nothing had been found 
in the pockets, neither the watch, nor a small pocket-book, 
which should have contained ten banknotes of a thousand 
francs each, a sum due to the sister of President Grandmorin, 
Madame Bonnehon, and which she was expecting, 



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The Monomaniac 105 

It therefore would have seemed that the motive of the 
crime was robbery, had not a ring, set with a large brilliant, 
remained on the finger of the victim. This circumstance 
gave rise to quite a series of conjectures. Unfortunately the 
numbers of the banknotes were missing ; but the watch was 
known. It was a very heavy, keyless watch, with the mono- 
gram of the President on the back, and the number, 2516, 
of the manufacturer, inside. Finally, the weapon, the knife 
the murderer had used, had occasioned diligent search along 
the line, among the bushes in the vicinity, where he might 
have thrown it; but with no result. The murderer must 
have concealed the knife in the same place as the 
watch and banknotes. Nothing had been found but the 
travelling-rug of the victim, which had been picked up at 
a hundred yards or so from Barentin station, where it had 
been abandoned as a dangerous article ; and it figured among 
other objects that might assist to convict the culprit. 

When the Lachesnayes entered, M. Denizet, erect before 
his writing-table, was perusing the examination of one of 
the first witnesses, which his registrar had just routed out 
from among the other papers. He was a short and rather 
robust man, clean-shaven, and already turning grey. His 
full cheeks, square chin, and big nose, had a sort of pallid 
immobility, which was increased by the heavy eyelids half 
closing his great light eyes. But all the sagacity, all the 
adroitness he believed he possessed, was centred in his mouth — 
one of those mouths of an actor that express the feelings of 
the owner off the stage. This mouth was extremely active, and 
at moments, when he became very sharp, the lips grew thin. 
It was his sharpness that frequently led him astray. He was 
too perspicacious, too cunning with simple, honest truth. Ac- 
cording to the ideal he had formed of his position, the man 
occupying it should be an anatomist in morals, endowed with 
second sight, extremely witty; and, indeed, he was by no 
means a fool, 



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106 The Monomaniac 

He at once showed himself amiable towards Madame de 
Lachesnaye, for he was still a magistrate full of urbanity, 
frequenting society in Rouen and its neighbourhood. 

" Pray be seated, madam," said he. 

And he offered a chair to the young woman, a sickly 
blonde, disagreeable in manner, and ugly in her mourning. 
But he was simply polite, and even a trifle arrogant, in look, 
towards M. de Lachesnaye, who was also fair, with a delicate 
skin; for this little man — judge at the Court of Appeal 
from the age of thirty-six ; decorated, thanks to the influence 
of his father-in-law, and to the services his father, also 
on the bench, had formerly rendered on the High Com- 
missions, at the time of the Coup d'Etat — represented in 
his eyes, the judicial functionary by favour, by wealth, the 
man of moderate gifts who had installed himself, certain of 
making rapid progress through his relatives and fortune; 
whereas he, poor, deprived of protective influence, found 
himself ever reduced to make way for others. And so he 
was not sorry to make this gentleman feel all his power 
in this room — the absolute power that he possessed over the 
liberty of everyone, to such a point that, by one word, he 
could transform a witness into an accused, and immediately 
have him arrested if it pleased him to do so. 

"Madam," he continued, "you will pardon me> if I am 
again obliged to torture you with this painful business. I 
know that you wish, as ardently as we do, to see the matter 
cleared up, and the culprit expiate his crime." 

By a sign he attracted the attention of the registrar, a big, 
bilious-looking fellow with a bony face, and the examination 
commenced. 

But M. de Lachesnaye — who, seeing he was not asked to 
sit down, had taken a seat of his own accord — at the first 
questions addressed to his wife, did his best to put himself 
in her place. He proceeded to complain bitterly of the 
will of his father-in-law. Who had ever heard of such 



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The Monomaniac 107 

a thing? So many, and such important legacies, that 
they absorbed almost half the fortune, which amounted to 
3,700,000 frcs. — about ^148,000! And legacies to persons 
who for the most part they did not know, to women of 
all classes ! Among them figured even a little violet-seller, 
who sat in a doorway in the Rue du Rocher. It was in- 
acceptable, and he was only waiting for the inquiry into the 
crime to be completed, to see if he could not upset this 
immoral will. 

Whilst he complained in this manner, between his set teeth, 
showing what a stupid he was, an obstinate provincial, up 
to his neck in avarice, M. Denizet watched him with his 
great light eyes half closed, and his artful lips assumed an 
expression of jealous disdain for this nonentity, who was not 
satisfied with two millions, and whom, no doubt, he would 
one day, see in the supreme purple of a President, thanks 
to all this money. 

11 I think, sir," said he at last, " that you would do 
wrong. The will could only be attacked if the total amount 
of the legacies exceeded half the fortune, and such is not 
the case." 

Then, turning to his registrar, he remarked : 

" I say, Laurent, you are not writing down all this, I hope." 

With the suspicion of a smile, the latter set his mind at 
ease, like a man who knew his business. 

" But, anyhow," resumed M. de Lachesnaye more bitterly, 
"no one imagines, I suppose, that I am going to leave 
La Croix-de-Maufras to those Roubauds. A present like 
that to the daughter of a domestic ! And why ? for what 
reason? Besides, if it is proved that they were connected 
with the crime " 

M. Denizet returned to the murder. 

"Do you really think so?" he inquired. 

" Well, if they knew what was in the will, their interest 
in the death of our poor father is manifest. Observe, 



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108 The Monomaniac 

moreover, that they were the last to speak to him. All 
this looks very suspicious." 

The magistrate, out of patience, disturbed in his new 
hypothesis, turned to Berthe. 

"And you, madam? Do you think your old comrade 
capable of such a crime ? " 

Before answering, she looked at her husband. During their 
few months of married life, they had communicated to one 
another their ill-humour and want of feeling, which, moreover, 
had increased. They were becoming vitiated together. It 
was he who had set her on to S^verine; and, to such a 
point, that to get back the house, she would have had her 
old playmate arrested on the spot 

" Well, sir," she ended by saying, " the person you speak 
about, displayed very bad tendencies as a child." 

"What were they? Do you accuse her of having acted 
improperly at Doinville?" 

"Oh! no, sir; my father would not have allowed her 
to remain." 

In this sentence the prudery of the respectable middle- 
class lady, flared up in virtuous indignation. 

"Only," she continued, "when one notices a disposition 
to be giddy, to be wild — briefly, many things that I should 
not have thought possible, appear to me positive at the 
present time." 

M. Denizet again showed signs of impatience. He was 
no longer following up this clue, and whoever continued to 
do so, became his adversary, and seemed to him to be 
putting the certainty of his intelligence in doubt. 

" But come ! " he exclaimed ; " one must yield to reason. 
People like the Roubauds would not kill such a man as 
your father, in order to inherit sooner; or, at least, there 
would be indications of them being in a hurry. I should 
find traces of this eagerness to possess and enjoy, elsewhere. 
No ; the motive is insufficient. It is necessary to find another, 



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The Monomaniac 109 

and there is nothing. You bring nothing yourselves. Then 
establish the facts. Do you not perceive material impossi- 
bilities? No one saw the Roubauds get into the coup& 
One of the staff even thinks he can affirm that they returned 
to their compartment; and, as they were certainly there 
at Barentin, it would be necessary to admit of a double 
journey between their carriage and that of the President, 
who was separated from them by three coaches, during 
the few minutes it required to cover the distance, and while 
the train was going at full speed. Does that seem likely? 
I have questioned drivers and guards. All replied that long 
habit, alone, could give sufficient coolness and energy. In 
any case, the woman could not have been there. The husband 
must have run the risk without her, and to do what? To 
kill a protector who had just extricated him from serious 
embarrassment ? No ; decidedly no ! The presumption is 
inadmissible. We must look elsewhere. Ah ! Supposing 
a man, who got into the train at Rouen, and left it at the 
next station, had recently uttered threats of death against 
the victim " 

In his enthusiasm, he was coming to his new theory. He 
was on the point of saying too much about it, when the door 
was set ajar to make way for the head of the usher ; but, 
before the latter could utter a word, a gloved hand sent the 
door wide open, and a fair lady, attired in very elegant 
mourning, entered the room. She was still handsome at 
more than fifty years of age, but displayed the opulent and 
expansive beauty of a goddess grown old. 

" It is I, my dear magistrate. I am behind time, and you 
must excuse me. The roads are very bad ; the three leagues 
from Doinville to Rouen are as good as six to-day." 

M. Denizet had risen gallantly from his seat. 

" I trust your health has been good, madam, since Sunday 
last ? " said he. 

" Very good. And you, my dear magistrate, have got 



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no The Monomaniac 

over the fright my coachman gave you ? The man told me 
the carriage got almost upset as he drove you back, before 
he had gone a couple of miles from the ch&teau." 

"Oh! merely a jolt. I had forgotten all about it. But 
pray be seated, and, as I just now said to Madame de 
Lachesnaye, pardon me for awakening your grief with this 
frightful business." 

"Well, as it has to be done How do you do, 

Berthe? How do you do, Lachesnaye?" 

It was Madame Bonnehon, the sister of the victim. She 
had kissed her niece, and pressed the hand of the husband. 
The widow, since the age of thirty, of a manufacturer who 
had left her a large fortune, and already wealthy in her own 
right, having inherited the estate at Doinville in the division 
of property between herself and her brother, she had led 
a most pleasant existence, full of flirtations. But she was so 
correct, and so frank in appearance, that she had remained 
arbiter in Rouennais society. 

At times, and by taste, she had flirted with members of 
the bench. She had been receiving the judicial world, at the 
chateau, for the last five-and-twenty years — all that swarm of 
functionaries at the Law Courts whom her carriages brought 
from Rouen and carried back in one continual round of 
festivities. At present, she had not calmed down; she 
was credited with displaying maternal tenderness for J a 
young substitute, son of a judge at the Court of Appeal, 
M. Chaumette. Whilst working for the advancement of the 
son, she showered invitations and acts of kindness on the 
father. She had, moreover, preserved an admirer of the old 
days, also a judge, and a bachelor, M. Desbazeilles, the literary 
glory of the Rouen Court of Appeal, whose cleverly turned 
sonnets were on every tongue. For years he had a room 
at Doinville. Now, although more than sixty, he still went 
to dinner there, as an old comrade, whose rheumatism only 
permitted him the recollection of his past gallantry. She 



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The Monomaniac hi 

thus maintained her regal state by her good grace, in spite 
of threatening old age, and no one thought of wresting it from 
her. Not before the previous winter had she felt a rival, a 
Madame Leboucq, the wife of another judge, whose house 
began to be much frequented by members of the bench. 
This circumstance gave a tinge of melancholy to her habitually 
gay life. 

" Then, madam, if you will permit me," resumed M. Denizet, 
"Til just ask you a few questions." 

The examination of the Lachesnayes was at an end, but 
he did not send them away. His cold, mournful apartment 
was taking the aspect of a fashionable drawing-room. The 
phlegmatic registrar again prepared to write. 

" One witness spoke of a telegram your brother is supposed 
to have received, summoning him at once to Doinville. We 
have found no trace of this wire. Did you happen to write 
to him, madam?" 

Madame Bonnehon, quite at ease, gave her answer as if 
engaged in a friendly chat. 

" I did not write to my brother," said she, " I was expecting 
him. I knew he would be coming, but no date was fixed. 
He usually came suddenly, and generally by a night train. 
As he lodged in a pavilion apart, in the park, opening on 
a deserted lane, we never even heard him arrive. He en- 
gaged a trap at Barentin, and only put in an appearance 
the following day, sometimes very late, like a neighbour in 
residence for a long time, who looked in on a visit. If I 
expected him on this occasion, it was because he had to 
bring me a sum of 10,000 frcs., the balance of an account 
we had together. He certainly had the 10,000 frcs. on 
him. And that is why I have always been of opinion that 
whoever killed him, simply did so for the purpose of rob- 
bing him." 

The magistrate allowed a short silence to follow; then, 
looking her in the face, he inquired: 



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ii2 The Monomaniac 

"What do you think of Madame Roubaud and her 
husband?" 

Madame Bonnehon, making a rapid gesture of protestation, 
exclaimed : 

" Ah ! no ! my dear Monsieur Denizet, you must not allow 
yourself to be led astray again, in regard to those worthy 
people. S^verine was a good little girl, very gentle, very 
docile even, and, moreover, delightfully pretty, which was 
no disadvantage. It is my opinion, as you seem anxious for 
me to repeat what I have already said, that she and her 
husband are incapable of a bad action." 

He nodded in approbation. He triumphed. And he cast 
a glance towards Madame de Lachesnaye. The latter, 
piqued, took upon herself to intervene. 

" I think you are very easy for them, aunt ! " she exclaimed. 
" Let be, Berthe," answered the latter ; " we shall never 
agree on this subject. She was gay, fond of mirth ; and quite 
right too. I am well aware of what you and your husband 
think. But really, the question of interest must have turned 
your heads, for you to be so astounded at this legacy of 
La Croix-de-Maufras from your father to poor S^verine. He 
brought her up, he gave her a marriage portion, and it was 
only natural he should mention her in his will. Did he not 
look upon her as his own daughter ? Come ! Ah ! my dear, 
money counts for very little in the matter of happiness ! " 

She, indeed, having always been very rich, was absolutely 
disinterested. Moreover, with the refinement of a beautiful 
woman who was very much admired, she affected to think 
beauty and love the only things worth living for. 

"It was Roubaud who spoke of the telegram, ,, remarked 
M. de Lachesnaye drily. "If there was no telegram, the 
President could not have told him he had received one. Why 
did Roubaud lie?" 

" But," exclaimed M. Denizet with feeling, " the President 
may have invented this story of the telegram, himself, to 



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The Monomaniac 1 1 3 

explain his sudden departure to the Roubauds ! According 
to their own evidence, he was only to leave the next day; 
and, as he was in the same train as they were, he had to give 
some explanation, if he did not wish to tell them the real 
reason, which we all ignore, for that matter. This is without 
importance; it leads to naught." 

Another silence ensued. When the magistrate continued, 
he displayed much calm and precaution. 

"I am now, madam," said he, "about to approach a 
particularly delicate matter, and I must beg you to excuse 
the nature of my questions. No one respects the memory 
of your brother more than myself. There were certain 
reports, were there not? It was pretended he had irregular 
connections." 

Madame Bonnehon was smiling again with boundless 
toleration. 

" Oh ! my dear sir, consider his age ! My brother became 
a widower early. I never considered I had the right to 
interfere with what he thought fit to do. He therefore 
lived as he chose, without my meddling with his existence 
in any way. What I do know is that he maintained 
his rank, and that to the end, he mixed in the best 
society." 

Berthe, choking at the idea that they should talk of her 
father's left-handed connections in her presence, had cast down 
her eyes ; whilst her husband, as uneasy as herself, had moved 
to the window, turning his back on the company. 

"Excuse me if I persist," said M. Denizet; "but was 
there not some story about a young housemaid you had in 
your service?" 

" Oh ! yes, Louisette. But, my dear sir, she was a 
depraved little creature who, at fourteen, *was on terms of 
intimacy with an ex-convict An attempt was made to cause 
a set out against my brother, in connection with her death. 
It was infamous. I'll tell you the whole story." 

8 



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ii4 The Monomaniac 

No doubt she spoke in good faith. Although she knew all 
about the President's habits, and had not been surprised at 
his tragic death, she felt the necessity of defending the high 
position of the family. Moreover, in regard to this unfortunate 
business about Louisette, if she thought him quite capable 
of having made advances to the young girl, she was also 
convinced of her precocious depravity. 

" Picture to yourself a tiny thing, oh ! so small, so delicate, 
blonde and rosy as a little angel, and gentle as well — the 
gentleness of a saint, to whom one would have given the 
sacrament without confession. Well, before she was fourteen, 
she became the sweetheart of a sort of brute, a quarryman, 
named Cabuche, who had just done five years' imprisonment 
for killing a man in a wine-shop. This fellow lived like a 
savage on the fringe of B£court forest, where his father, who 
had died of grief, had left him a hut made of trunks of trees 
and earth. There he obstinately worked a part of the 
abandoned quarries, that formerly, I believe, supplied half 
the stone with which Rouen is built. And it was in this lair 
that the girl went to join her ruffian, of whom everyone in the 
district were so afraid that he lived absolutely alone, like a 
leper. Frequently they were met together, roving through 
the woods, holding one another by the hand ; she so dainty, 
he huge and bestial — briefly, a depravity one would hardly 
have believed possible. Naturally, I only heard of all this 
later. I had taken Louisette into my service almost out of 
charity, to do a good action. Her family, those Misards, 
whom I knew to be poor, were very careful to conceal from 
me that they had soundly flogged the child, without being 
able to prevent her running off to her Cabuche, as soon as a 
door stood open. 

"My brother had no servants of his own at Doinville. 
Louisette and another woman did the housework in the 
detached pavilion which he occupied. One morning, when 
she had gone there alone, she disappeared. To my mind, 



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The Monomaniac 115 

she had premeditated her flight long before. Perhaps her 
lover awaited her, and carried her off. But the horrifying 
part of the business was that five days later, came the report 
of the death of Louisette, along with details of a rape, 
attempted by my brother, under such monstrous circum- 
stances that the child, out of her mind, had gone to Cabuche, 
where she had died of brain fever. What had happened? 
So many different versions were put about that it is difficult 
to say. For my part, I believe that Louisette, who really 
died of pernicious fever, for this was established by a doctor, 
had been guilty of some imprudence, such as sleeping out 
in the open air, or wandering like a vagabond among the 
marshes. You, my dear sir, you cannot, yourself, conceive 
my brother torturing this mite of a girL It is odious, 
impossible." 

M. Denizet had listened to this version of the business 
without either approving or disapproving. And Madame 
Bonnehon experienced some slight embarrassment in coming 
to an end. But, making up her mind, she added : 

" Of course, I do not mean to say that my brother did not 
joke with her. He liked young people. He was very gay, 
notwithstanding his rigid exterior. Briefly, let us say he 
kissed her." 

At this word, the Lachesnayes protested in virtuous 
indignation. 

"Oh! aunt, aunt!" 

But she shrugged her shoulders. Why should she tell the 
magistrate falsehoods? 

" He kissed her, tickled her, perhaps. There is no crime 
in that. And what makes me admit this, is that the invention 
does not come from the quarryman. Louisette must be the 
falsehood-teller, the vicious creature who exaggerated things, 
in order to get her lover to keep her with him, perhaps. So 
that the latter, a brute, as I have told you, ended in good 
faith by imagining that we .had killed his sweetheart. In 



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n6 The Monomaniac 

fact he was mad with rage, and repeated in all the drinking- 
places that if the President fell into his hands, he would 
bleed him like a pig." 

The magistrate, who ; had been silent up to then, interrupted 
her sharply. 

" He said that? Are there any witnesses to prove it ? " 

" Oh ! my dear sir, you will be able to find as many as 
you please. In conclusion, it was a very sad business, and 
caused us a great deal of annoyance. Fortunately, the position 
of my brother placed him beyond suspicion." 

Madame Bonnehon had just discovered the new clue that 
M. Denizet was following, and this made her rather anxious. 
She preferred not to venture further, by questioning him 
in her turn. He had risen, and said he would not take 
any further advantage of the civility of the family in their 
painful position. By his orders, the registrar read over 
the examinations of the witnesses, before they signed them. 
They were perfectly correct, so thoroughly purged of all 
unnecessary and entangling words that Madame Bonnehon, 
with her pen in her hand, cast a glance of benevolent surprise 
at this pallid, bony Laurent, whom she had not yet looked at. 

Then, as the magistrate accompanied her, along with her 
niece and nephew-in-law, to the door, she pressed his hands 
with the remark : 

" I shall soon see you again, I hope. You know you are 
always welcome at Doinville. And, thanks for coming ; you 
are one of my last faithful ones." 

Her smile became quite melancholy. But her niece, 
who had walked out stiffly the first, had only made a slight 
inclination of her head to the magistrate. 

When they were gone M. Denizet breathed for a moment. 
He remained on his feet, thinking. To his mind the 
matter was becoming clear. Grandmorin, whose reputation 
was well known, had certainly acted improperly. This made 
the inquiry a delicate matter. He determined to be more 



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The Monomaniac 117 

prudent than ever, until the" communication he was expecting 
from the Ministry reached him. But none the less, he 
triumphed; anyhow he held the culprit 

When he had resumed his seat at the writing-table, he 
rang up the usher. 

" Bring me the driver Jacques Lantier," said he. 

The Roubauds were still waiting on the bench in the 
corridor, with fixed countenances, as if their protracted 
patience had set them dozing ; but their faces were occasionally 
disturbed by a nervous twitch, and the voice of the usher, 
calling Jacques, seemed to make them slightly shudder, as 
they roused themselves. They followed the driver with 
expanded eyes, watching him disappear in the room of the 
magistrate. Then they fell into their former attitude — paler, 
and silent. 

For the last three weeks, Jacques had been pursued by 
the uncomfortable feeling that all this business might end 
by turning against him. This was unreasonable, for there 
was naught he could reproach himself with, not even with 
keeping silent. And yet he entered the room of the 
examining-magistrate with that little creeping sensation of a 
guilty person, who fears his crime may be discovered, and 
he defended himself against the questions that were put 
to him; he was cautious in his answers, lest he might say 
too much. He, also, might have killed ; was this not visible 
in his eyes? Nothing was so repugnant to him as these 
summonses to the justice-room. He experienced a sort of 
anger at receiving them, saying he was anxious to be no 
longer tormented by matters that did not concern him. 

But, on this occasion, M. Denizet only dwelt upon the 
subject of the description of the murderer. Jacques, being the 
single witness who had caught sight of him, could alone 
supply precise information. But he did not depart from 
what he had said at his first examination. He repeated that 
the scene of the murder had been a vision which had barely 



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1 1 8 The Monomaniac 

lasted a second, a picture that came and went so rapidly that 
it had remained as if without form, in the abstract, in his 
recollection. It was merely one man slaughtering another, 
and nothing more. For half an hour, the judge pestered 
him with patient persistence, questioning him in every 
imaginable sense. Was he a big or a small man? Had 
he a beard? Did he wear his hair long or short? What 
were his clothes like? To what class of people did he 
appear to belong ? And Jacques, who was uneasy, only gave 
vague replies. 

"Look here," abruptly inquired M. Denizet, staring him 
full in the eyes, "if he were shown to you, would you 
recognise him?" 

He blinked slightly, seized with anguish under the in- 
fluence of that piercing gaze, searching in his very brain. 
His conscience spoke aloud : 

" Know him ? Yes, perhaps." 

But, immediately, his strange fear of unconscious com- 
plicity plunged him into his evasive system again, and he 
continued : 

"But no; I don't think so. I should never dare say 
positively. Just reflect I A speed of sixty miles an hour ! " 

With a gesture of discouragement, the magistrate was about 
to send him into the adjoining room to keep him at his 
disposal, when, changing his mind, he said: 

" Remain here. Sit down." 

And, ringing for the usher, he told him to introduce 
M. and Madame Roubaud. 

As soon as they were at the doorway and saw Jacques, their 
eyes lost their brilliancy in a feeling of vacillating anxiety. 
Had he spoken? Was he detained so as to be confronted 
with them ? All their self-assurance vanished at the knowledge 
that he was there, and it was in a rather low voice that they 
began to give their answers. But the magistrate had simply 
turned to their first examination. They merely had to repeat 



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The Monomaniac 119 

the same sentences, almost identical, whilst M. Denizet 
listened with bowed head, without even looking at them. 

All at once, he turned to S£verine. 

" Madam, 1 ' said he, " you told the commissary of police 
at the railway station, whose report I have here, that you 
had the- idea, that a man got into the coup£ at Rouen, as 
the train began to move." 

She was thunderstruck. Why did he recall that ? Was it 
a snare ? Was he about to compare one answer with another, 
and so make her contradict herself? And, with a glance, 
she consulted her husband who prudently intervened. 

"I do not think my wife was quite so positive, sir," he 
remarked. 

" Excuse me," replied the magistrate, " you suggested the 
thing was possible, and madam said, * That is certainly what 
happened.' Now, madam, I want to know whether you had 
any particular reasons for speaking as you did ? " 

She was now completely upset, convinced that if she did 
not take care, he would, from one answer to another, bring 
her to a confession. Howbeit, she could not remain silent. 

"Oh ! no, sir !" she exclaimed ; "no reason. I merely said 
that by way of argument, because, in fact, it is difficult to 
explain the matter in any other way." 

" Then you did not see the man. You can tell us nothing 
about him?" 

" No, no, sir, nothing ! " 

M. Denizet seemed to abandon this point in the inquiry. 
But he at once returned to it with Roubaud. 

" And you ? How is it that you did not see the man, if 
he really got into the coup6, for, according to your own 
deposition, you were talking to the victim when they whistled 
to send the train off?" 

This persistence had the effect of terrifying the assistant 
station- master, in his anxiety to decide what course he ought 
to take — whether he should set aside his invention about the 



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no The Monomaniac 

other man, or obstinately cling to it If they had proofs 
against himself, the theory concerning the unknown murderer 
could hardly be maintained, and might even aggravate his 
own case. He gained time, until he could understand what 
was going on, answering in detail with confused explanations. 

" It is really unfortunate," resumed M. Denizet, " that your 
recollection is not more distinct, for you might help us to put 
an end to suspicions that have spread to several persons." 

This seemed such a direct thrust at Roubaud that he 
felt an irresistible desire to establish his own innocence. 
Imagining himself discovered, he immediately made up his 
mind. 

"This point is so thoroughly a matter of conscience," 
said he, "that one hesitates, you understand; nothing is 
more natural. Supposing I were to confess to you that I 
really believe I saw the man " 

The magistrate gave a gesture of triumph, thinking this 
commencement of frankness due to his own ability. He 
had frequently remarked that he knew, by experience, what 
strange difficulty some witnesses found in divulging what 
they knew, and he flattered himself he could make this 
class of people unburden themselves, in spite of all. 

"Go on. How was he? Short, tall, about your own 
height?" 

" Oh ! no, no, much taller. At least, that was my sensa- 
tion, for it was a simple sensation, an individual I am almost 
sure I brushed against, as I ran back to my own carriage." 

" Wait a moment," said M. Denizet. 

And, turning to Jacques, he inquired : 

" The man you caught sight of, with the knife in his hand, 
was he taller than Monsieur Roubaud ? " 

The driver, who was impatient, for he began to be 
afraid he would not catch the five o'clock train, raised his 
eyes and examined Roubaud. And, it seemed to him, 
that he had never looked at him before. He was astonished 



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The Monomaniac in 

to find him short, powerful, with a peculiar i profile he had 
seen elsewhere, perhaps in a dream. 

" No," he murmured, " not taller ; about the same height." 

But the assistant station master vehemently protested. 

" Oh ! much taller ! At least a head." 

Jacques fixed his eyes, wide open, upon him. And 
under the influence of this look, wherein he read increasing 
surprise, Roubaud became agitated, as if to change his own 
appearance; while his wife also followed the dull effort of 
memory expressed by the face of the young man. Clearly 
the latter was astonished. First of all, at certain analogies 
between Roubaud and the murderer. Then he abruptly 
became positive that Roubaud was the assassin, as had been 
reported. He now seemed troubled at this discovery, and 
stood there with gaping countenance, unable to decide what 
to do. If he spoke, the couple were lost. The eyes of 
Roubaud had met his. They penetrated one another to 
their innermost thoughts. There came a silence. 

" Then you do not agree ? " resumed M. Denizet, addressing 
Jacques. " If, in your sight, he appeared shorter, it was no 
doubt because he was bent in the struggle with his victim." 

He also looked at the two men. It had not occurred 
to him to make use of this confrontation ; but, by professional 
instinct, he felt, at this moment, that truth was flitting away. 
His confidence was even shaken in the Cabuche clue. Could 
it be possible that the Lachesnayes were right ? Could it be 
possible that the guilty parties, contrary to all appearance, 
were this upright employe^ and his gentle young wife? 

" Did the man wear all his beard, like you ? " he inquired 
of Roubaud. 

The latter had the strength to answer in a steady voice : 

" All his beard ? No, no ! I think he had no beard at all.' 

Jacques understood that the same question was about to 
be put to him. What should he say ? He could have sworn 
the man had a full beard. After all, he was not interested 



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i22 The Monomaniac 

in these people, why not tell the truth ? But as he took his 
eyes off the husband, he met those of the wife, and in her 
look he read such ardent supplication, such an absolute gift 
of all her being, that he felt quite overcome. His old shiver 
came on him. Did he love her? Was she the one he could 
love, as one loves for love's sake, without a monstrous desire 
for destruction ? And, at this moment, by singular counter- 
action in his trouble, it seemed to him that his memory 
had become obscured. He no longer saw the murderer in 
Roubaud. The vision was again vague ; he doubted, and 
to such an extent that he mortally regretted having spoken. 

M. Denizet put the question : 

" Had the man a full beard like Monsieur Roubaud ? " 

And he replied in good faith : 

"Sir, in truth, I cannot say. Once more, it was too rapid: 
I know nothing. I will affirm nothing." 

But M. Denizet proved tenacious, for he wished to clear up 
the suspicion cast on the assistant station-master. He plied 
both Roubaud and the driver with questions, and ended by 
getting a complete description of the murderer from the 
former : tall, robust, no beard, attired in a blouse — quite 
the reverse of his own appearance in every particular. But 
the driver only answered in evasive monosyllables, which 
imparted strength to the statements of the other. And the 
magistrate returned to the conviction he had formed at first. 
He was on the right track. The portrait the witness drew of 
the assassin was so exact that each new feature added to the 
certainty. It was the crushing testimony of this unjustly 
suspected couple, that would lay the head of the culprit low. 

"Step in there," said he to the Roubauds and Jacques, 
showing them into the adjoining room, when they had signed 
their examinations. " Wait till I call you." 

He immediately gave orders for the prisoner to be brought 
in, and he was so delighted, that he went to the length of 
remarking to his registrar: 



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The Monomaniac 123 

" Laurent, we've got him." 

But the door had opened, two gendarmes had appeared 
bringing in a great, big fellow between twenty-five and thirty. 
At a sign from the magistrate, they withdrew, and Cabuche, 
bewildered, remained alone in the centre of the apartment, 
bristling like a wild beast at bay. He was a sturdy, thick- 
necked fellow, with enormous fists, and fair, with a very 
white skin. He had hardly any hair on his face, barely a 
golden down, curly and silken. The massive features, the 
low forehead, indicated the violent character of a being of 
limited brains, but a sort of desire to be tenderly submissive 
was shown in the broad mouth and square nose, as in those 
of a good dog. 

Seized brutally in his den in the early morning, torn from 
his forest, exasperated at accusations which he did not under- 
stand, he had already, with his wild look and rent blouse, all 
the suspicious air of a prisoner in the dock — that air of 
a cunning bandit which the jail gives to the most honest 
man. Night was drawing in, the room was dark, and he 
had slunk into the shadow, when the usher brought a big 
lamp, having a globe without a shade, whose bright light 
lit up his countenance. Then he remained uncovered, and 
motionless. 

M. Denizet at once fixed his great, heavy-lidded eyes on 
him. And he did not speak. This was the dumb engage- 
ment, the preliminary trial of his power, before entering on the 
warfare of the savage, the warfare of stratagem, of snares, of 
moral torture. This man was the culprit, everything became 
lawful against him. He had now no other right than that 
of confessing his crime. 

The cross-examination commenced very slowly. 

" Do you know of what crime you are accused ? " 

Cabuche, in a voice thick with impotent anger, grumbled : 

" No one has told me, but I can easily guess. There has 
been enough talk about it ! " 



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1^4 The Monomaniac 

" You knew Monsieur Grandmorin ? " 

" Yes, yes ; I knew him, only too well ! " 

" A girl named Louisette, your sweetheart, went as house- 
maid to Madame Bonnehon?" 

The quarryman flew into a frightful rage. In his anger, 
he was ready to shed blood. 

"Those who say that," he exclaimed with an oath, "are 
liars ! Louisette was not my sweetheart." 

The magistrate watched him lose his temper with curiosity. 
And giving a turn to the examination, remarked : 

" You are very violent. You were sentenced to five years' 
imprisonment for killing a man in a quarrel ? " 

Cabuche hung his head. That sentence was his shame. 
He murmured : 

"He struck first. I only did four years; they let me 
off one." 

"So," resumed M. Denizet, "you pretend that the girl 
Louisette was not your sweetheart?" 

Again Cabuche clenched his fists. Then in a low, broken 
voice, he replied : 

" You must know that when I came back from there, she 
was a child, under fourteen. At that time everyone fled 
from me. They would have stoned me; and she, in the 
forest, where I was always meeting her, approached me, and 
talked ; she was so nice — oh ! so nice ! It was like that we 
became friends ; we walked about holding each other by the 
hand. It was so pleasant — so pleasant in those days. Of 
course she was growing, and I thought of her. I can't say 
the contrary. I was like a madman I loved her so. She 
was very fond of me, too, and in the end what you mean 
would have happened, but they separated her from me by 
placing her at Doinville with this lady. Then, one night, 
on coming from the quarry, I found her before my door, 
half out of her mind, so dreadfully upset that she was burning 
with fever. She had not dared return to her parents; she 



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The Monomaniac 125 

had come to die at my place. Ah ! the pig ! I ought to 
have run and bled him at once ! " 

The magistrate pinched his artful lips, astonished at the 
sincere tone of the man. Decidedly he would have to play 
a close game, he had to deal with a stronger hand than he 
had thought. 

" Yes," said he, " I know all about the frightful story 
that you and this girl invented. Only, observe that the 
whole life of Monsieur Grandmorin places him above your 
accusations." 

Agitated, his eyes round with astonishment, his hands 
trembling, the quarryman stammered : 

"What? What did we invent? It's the others who lie, 
and we are accused of doing so ! " 

" Indeed ! " observed the examining-magistrate. " Do not 
try to act the innocent. I have already questioned Misard, 
the man who married the mother of your sweetheart. I will 
confront him with you if it be necessary ; you will see what 
he thinks of your tale, and be careful of your answers. 
We have witnesses, we know all. You had much better 
tell the truth." 

These were his usual tactics of intimidation, even when 
he knew nothing, and had no witnesses. 

" Now, do you deny having shouted out in public, every- 
where, that you would bleed Monsieur Grandmorin ? " inquired 
M. Denizet. 

"Ah! as to that, yes, I did say it. And I said it from 
the bottom of my heart ; for my hand was jolly well itching 
to do it ! " answered Cabuche. 

M. Denizet stopped short in surprise, having expected to 
meet with a system of complete denial. What ! the accused 
owned up to the threats ? What stratagem did that conceal ? 
Fearing he might have been too hasty, he collected himself 
a moment, then, staring Cabuche full in the face, he abruptly 
put this question to him : 



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126 The Monomaniac 

" What were you doing on the night of the 14th to the 
15th of February?" 

"I went to bed at dark, about six o'clock," replied the 
quarryman. "I was rather unwell, and my cousin Louis 
did me the service to take a load of stones to Doinville." 

"Yes, your cousin was seen, with the cart, passing over 
the line at the level crossing," remarked the magistrate; 
"but on being questioned, he could only make one reply, 
namely, that you left him about noon, and he did not see 
you again. Prove to me that you were in bed at six o'clock." 

" Look here, that's stupid," protested Cabuche. " I cannot 
prove that I live all alone in a house at the edge of the 
forest I was there, I say so, and nothing more." 

Then M. Denizet decided on playing his trump card 
of assertion, which was calculated to impose on the party. 
His face, by a tension of will, became rigid, whilst his mouth 
performed the scene* 

"I am going to tell you what you did on the night of 
February 14th," said he. "At three o'clock in the afternoon, 
you took the train for Rouen, at Barentin, with what object the 
inquiry has not revealed. You had the intention of returning 
by the Paris train, which stops at Rouen at 9.3 ; and while 
on the platform, amid the crowd, you caught sight of 
Monsieur Grandmorin in his coupe\ Observe that I am willing 
to admit there was no laying in wait for the victim, that the 
idea of the crime only occurred to you when you saw him. 
You entered the coupe*, thanks to the crush, and waited until 
you were in the Malaunay tunnel. But you miscalculated 
the time, for the train was issuing from the tunnel when you 
dealt the blow. And you threw out the corpse, and you 
left the train at Barentin, after having got rid of the travelling- 
rug as well. That is what you did." 

He watched for the slightest ripple on ithe rosy face of 
Cabuche, and was irritated when the latter, who had been 
very attentive at first, ended by bursting into a hearty laugh. 



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The Monomaniac 127 

"What's that you're relating?" he exclaimed. "If I'd 
struck the blow I'd say so." 

Then he quietly added : 

" I did not do it, but I ought to have done it Yes, I'm 
sorry I didn't" 

And that was all M. Denizet could get out of him. In 
vain did he repeat his questions, returning ten times to the 
same points by different tactics. No ; always no ! it was 
not he. He shrugged his shoulders, saying the idea was 
stupid. On arresting him they had searched the hovel, 
without discovering either weapon, banknotes, or watch. 
But they had laid hands on a pair of trousers, soiled with a 
few drops of blood — an overwhelming proof. 

Again he began to laugh. That was another pretty yarn ! 
A rabbit, caught in a noose, had bled down his leg ! And 
it was the magistrate who, in his unswerving conviction of the 
guilt of the prisoner, was losing ground by the display of too 
much professional astuteness, by complicating matters, by 
deposing simple truth. This man of small brains, incapable 
of holding his own in an effort of cunning, of invincible 
strength when he said no, always no, almost drove him 
crazy; for he was positive of the culpability of the man, 
and each fresh denial made him the more indignant at what 
he looked upon as obstinate perseverance in savagery and 
lies. He would force him into contradicting himself. 

" So you deny it ? " he said. 

" Of course I do, because it was not me," said Cabuche. 
" Had it been, ah ! I should be only too proud, I should say 
it was me." 

M. Denizet abruptly rose, and opened the door of the 
small adjoining room. When he had summoned Jacques, he 
inquired : 

" Do you recognise this man ? " 

" I know him," answered the driver, surprised. " I've seen 
him formerly at the Misards." 



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128 The Monomaniac 

"No, no," said the magistrate. "Do you recognise him 
as the man in the coupi, the murderer?" 

At once, Jacques became circumspect As a matter of fact, 
he did not recognise the man. The other seemed to him 
shorter, darker. He was about to say so, when it struck 
him that even this might be going too far. And he con- 
tinued evasively. 

"I don't know, I can't say; I assure you, sir, that I 
cannot say." 

M. Denizet, without waiting, called the Roubauds in their 
turn, and put the same question to them. 

" Do you recognise this man ? " 

Cabuche continued smiling. He was not surprised. He 
nodded to Slverine, whom he had known as a young girl 
when she resided at La Croix-de-Maufras. But she and her 
husband had felt a pang, on perceiving him there. They 
understood. This was the man taken into custody, of whom 
Jacques had spoken, the prisoner who had caused this fresh 
examination. And Roubaud was astounded, terrified at the 
resemblance of this fellow to the imaginary murderer, 
whose description he had invented, the reverse of his own. 
It was pure chance, but it so troubled him that he hesitated 
to reply. 

" Come, do you recognise him ? " repeated the magistrate. 

" Sir," answered Roubaud, " I can only say again that it 
was a simple sensation, an individual who brushed against 
me. Of course this man is tall, like the other, and he is 
fair, and has no beard." 

" Anyhow, do you recognise him ? " asked M. Denizet again. 

"I cannot say positively. But there is a resemblance, a 
good deal of resemblance, certainly." 

This time Cabuche began to swear. He had had enough 
of these yarns. As he was not the culprit, he wanted to be 
off. And the blood flying to his head, he struck the table 
with his fists. He became so terrible that the gendarmes, 



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The Monomaniac 129 

who were called in, led him away. But in presence of this 
violence, of this leap of the beast who dashes forward when 
attacked, M. Denizet triumphed. His conviction was now 
firmly established, and he allowed this to be seen. 

" Did you notice his eyes ? " he inquired. " It's by the 
eyes that I tell them. Ah ! his measure is full. We've 
got him ! " 

The Roubauds, remaining motionless, exchanged glances. 
What now ? It was all over. As justice had the culprit in its 
grip, they were saved. They felt a trifle bewildered, their 
consciences were pricked at the part events had just compelled 
them to play. But overwhelmed with joy, they made short 
work of their scruples, and they smiled at Jacques. Con- 
siderably relieved, eager for the open air, they were waiting 
for the magistrate to dismiss all three of them, when the 
usher brought him a letter. 

In a moment M. Denizet, oblivious of the three witnesses, 
was at his writing-table, perusing the communication. It 
was the letter from the Ministry containing the indications 
he should have had the patience to await before resuming 
the inquiry. What he read must have lessened his feeling 
of triumph, for his countenance, little by little, became frigid, 
and resumed its sad immobility. At a certain moment he 
raised his head, to cast a glance sideways at the Roubauds, 
as if one of the phrases reminded him of them. The latter, 
bereft of their brief joy, once more became a prey to un- 
easiness, feeling themselves caught again. 

Why had he looked at them? Had the three lines of 
writing — that clumsy note which haunted them — been 
found in Paris ? SeVerine was well acquainted with M. Camy- 
Lamotte, having frequently seen him at the house of the 
President, and she was aware that he had been entrusted with 
the duty of sorting his papers. Roubaud was tortured by the 
keenest regret that the idea had not occurred to # him to 
dispatch his wife to Paris, where she might have paid useful 

9 



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13° The Monomaniac 

visits, and at the least made sure of the support of the secretary 
to the Ministry, in case the company, annoyed at the nasty 
rumours in circulation, should think of dismissing him. 
Thenceforth, neither of them took their eyes off the magistrate, 
and their anxiety increased as they noticed him become 
gloomy, visibly disconcerted at this letter which upset all 
his good day's work. 

At last, M. Denizet left the letter, and for a moment 
remained absorbed, his eyes wide open, resting on the 
Roubauds and Jacques. Then, submitting to the inevitable, 
speaking aloud to himself, he exclaimed: 

"Well, we shall seel We shall have to return to all 
this ! You can withdraw." 

But as the three were going out, he could not resist the 
desire to learn more, to throw light on the grave point which 
destroyed his new theory, although he was recommended 
to do nothing further, without previously coming to an under- 
standing with the authorities. 

"No; you remain here a minute," said he, addressing 
the driver. "IVe another question to put to you." 

The Roubauds stopped in the corridor. They were free, 
and yet they could not go. Something detained them there : 
the anguish to learn what was passing in the magistrate's room, 
the physical impossibility to depart before ascertaining from 
Jacques, what the other question was that had been put to 
him. They turned and turned, they beat time with their 
worn out legs ; and they found themselves again side by side, 
on the bench where they had already waited for hours. 
There they sat, downcast and silent. 

When the driver reappeared, Roubaud rose with effort. 

"We were waiting for you," said he. "We'll go to the 
station together. Well?" 

But Jacques turned his head aside, in embarrassment, as if 
wishing to avoid the eyes of S£verine which were fixed on him. 

" He's all at sea, floundering about," he ended by saying. 



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The Monomaniac 131 

" Look here, he is now asking me whether there were not 
two who did the deed. And, as at Havre, I spoke of a black 
mass weighing on the old chap's legs. He questioned me 
on the point ; he seems to fancy it was only the rug. Then 
he sent for it, and I had to express an opinion. Well, now, 
yes ,• when I come to think, perhaps it was the rug.'' 

The Roubauds shuddered. They were on their track; 
one word from this man might ruin them. He certainly 
knew, and he would end by talking. And all three, the 
woman between the two men, left the Law Courts in silence. 
In the street the assistant station-master observed : 
"By the way, comrade, my wife will be obliged to go 
to Paris, for a day, on business. It would be very good of 
you, if you would look after her, should she be in need of 



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CHAPTER V 

PRECISELY at 11.15, the advertised time, the signalman 
at the Pont de PEurope, gave the two regulation 
blows of the horn, to announce the Havre express, which 
issued from the Batignolles tunnel. Soon afterwards the 
turn-tables rattled, and the train entered the station with 
a short whistle, grating on the brakes, smoking, shining, 
dripping with the beating rain that had not ceased since 
leaving Rouen. 

The porters had not yet turned the handles of the doors, 
when one of them opened, and S£verine sprang lightly to 
the platform, before the train had stopped. Her carriage 
was at the end. To reach the locomotive, she had to 
hurry through the swarm of passengers, embarrassed by 
children and packages, who had suddenly left the compart- 
ments. Jacques stood there, erect on the footplate, waiting 
to go to the engine-house; while Pecqueux wiped the 
brasswork with a cloth. 

"So it is understood," said she, on tiptoe. "I will be at 
the Rue Cardinet at three o'clock, and you will have the kind- 
ness to introduce me to your chief, so that I may thank him." 

This was the pretext imagined by Roubaud: a visit to 
the head of the depot at Batignolles, to thank him for some 
vague service he had rendered. In this manner she would 
find herself confided to the good friendship of the driver. 
She could strengthen the bonds, and exert her influence 
over him. 

132 



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The Monomaniac 133 

But Jacques, black with coal, drenched with water, ex- 
hausted by the struggle against rain and wind, stared at 
her with his harsh eyes, without answering. On leaving 
Havre, he had been unable to refuse the request of the 
husband to look after her; and this idea of finding himself 
alone in her company upset him, for he now felt that he 
was very decidedly falling in love with her. 

"Is that right?" she resumed, smiling, with her sweet, 
caressing look, overcoming her surprise and slight repugnance 
at finding him so dirty, barely recognisable. " Is that right ? 
I shall rely on your being there." 

And, as she raised herself a little higher, resting her 
gloved hand on one of the iron handles, Pecqueux obligingly 
interfered : 

" Take care, you will dirty yourself," said he. 

Then Jacques had to answer, and he did so in a surly tone. 

" Yes, Rue Cardinet, unless I get drowned in this abominable 
rain. What horrid weather ! " 

She felt touched at his wretched appearance, and added, 
as if he had suffered solely for her : 

" Oh ! what a dreadful state you are in ! And I was so 
comfortable. I was thinking of you, you know; and that 
deluge of rain quite distressed me. I felt very pleased at the 
idea that you were bringing me up this morning, and would 
take me back to-night, by the express." 

But this familiarity, so tender and so nice, only seemed 
to trouble him the more. He appeared relieved when a 
voice shouted, " Back ! " Promptly he blew the whistle, 
while the fireman made a sign to the young woman to 
stand back. 

" At three o'clock ! " 

" Yes ; at three o'clock ! " 

And as the locomotive moved along, SeVerine left the 
platform, the last of the passengers. Outside, in the Rue 
4 , A mst ^ r dam ? las she was about to open her umbrella, she 



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134 The Monomaniac 

was glad to find it had ceased raining. She walked down 
to the Place du Havre, where she stood reflecting for an 
instant, and at last decided that it would be best to lunch 
at once. It was twenty-five minutes past eleven. She 
stepped into a little restaurant at the corner of the Rue 
Saint Lazare, where she ordered a couple of fried eggs and 
a cutlet. Then, whilst eating very slowly, she fell into 
reflections that had been haunting her for weeks, her face 
pale and cloudy, and bereft of its docile, seductive smile. 

It was on the previous evening, two days after their 
examination at Rouen, that Roubaud, judging it dangerous 
to wait, had resolved to send her on a visit to M. Camy- 
Lamotte, not at the Ministry, but at his private residence, 
Rue du Rocher, where he occupied a house close to that of 
the late President Grandmorin. She knew she would find 
him there at one o'clock, and she did not hurry. She was 
preparing what she should say, endeavouring to foresee what 
he would answer, so as not to get troubled at anything that 
might transpire. 

The evening before, a new cause of anxiety had hastened 
her journey. They had learnt, from gossip at the station, 
that Madame Lebleu and Philomene were relating everywhere 
that the company was going to dismiss Roubaud, who 
was considered involved. And the worst of it was that 
M. Dabadie, who had been questioned point blank, had 
not answered no, which gave considerable weight to the 
news. From that moment it became urgent that she 
should hurry off to Paris to plead their cause, and par- 
ticularly to solicit the protection of the powerful personage 
in question, as on former occasions she had sought that of 
the President. 

But, apart from this request, which anyhow would serve to 
explain her visit, there was a more imperative motive — a 
burning and insatiable hankering to know, that hankering 
wjiich drives the criminal to give himself away rather than 



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The Monomaniac 135 

remain ignorant. The uncertainty was killing them, now that 
they felt themselves discovered, since Jacques had told them 
of the suspicion which the judicial authorities seemed to 
entertain of there being an accomplice. They were lost in 
conjectures : had the letter been found, the facts established ? 
Hour by hour they expected a search would be made at their 
lodgings, that they would be arrested; and their burden 
became so heavy, the least occurrence in their surroundings 
assumed an air of such alarming menace, that in the end 
they preferred the catastrophe to this constant apprehension, 
to have a certainty and no longer suffer. 

When Severine had finished her cutlet, she was so absorbed 
that she awoke almost with a start to reality, astonished to 
find herself in a public room. Everything seemed bitter. 
Her food stuck in her throat, and she had no heart to take 
coffee. Although she had eaten slowly, it was barely a 
quarter past twelve, when she left the restaurant. Another 
threequarters of an hour to kill ! She who adored Paris, 
who was so fond of rambling through the streets, freely, on 
the rare occasions when she visited the capital, now felt 
lost, timid, and was full of impatience to have done with the 
place and hide herself. The pavements were already drying \ 
a warm wind was driving away the last clouds. 

Taking the Rue Tronchet, she found herself at the flower- 
market of the Madeleine, one of those March markets, 
all abloom with primroses and azaleas, in the dull days of 
expiring winter. She sauntered for half an hour, amidst this 
premature spring, resuming her vague reflections, thinking of 
Jacques as an enemy whom she must disarm. It seemed to 
her that she had paid her visit to the Rue du Rocher, thajt all 
had gone well in that quarter, that the only thing remaining 
was to ensure the silence of this man ; and this was a com- 
plicated undertaking that bewildered her, and set her head 
labouring at romantic plans. But these caused her no worry, 
no terror j on the contrary she experienced a. sweet, soothing 



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*3*> The Monomaniac 

feeling. Then, abruptly, she saw the time by a clock at a 
kiosk : ten minutes past one. She had not yet performed 
her errand ; and, harshly recalled to the agony of reality, she 
hastened in the direction of the Rue du Rocher. 

The residence of M. Camy-Lamotte was at the corner of 
this street and the Rue de Naples, and Sdverine had to pass 
by the house of Grandmorin, which stood silent, tenantless, 
and with closed shutters. Raising her eyes, she hurried on. 
She recollected her last visit. The great house towered up, 
terrible, before her, and when a little further on, she in- 
stinctively turned round, to look behind, like a person pur- 
sued by the shouts of a crowd, she was startled to perceive 
M. Denizet, the examining-magistrate at Rouen, who was 
also coming up the street, on the opposite side of the way. 
The thrill she experienced brought her to a standstill. Had 
he noticed her casting a glance at the house? He was 
walking along quietly, and she allowed him to get ahead 
of her, following him in great trouble. She received another 
shock when she saw him ring at the corner of the Rue de 
Naples, at the residence of M. Camy-Lamotte. 

She felt terrified. She would never dare enter now. She 
turned on her heel, cut through the Rue d'Edimbourg, and 
descended as far as the Pont de PEurope. It was not until 
then, that she felt herself secure. And, quite distracted, not 
knowing where to go nor what to do, she leant motionless 
against one of the balustrades, gazing below, across the iron 
sheds, at the vast station, where the trains were constantly 
performing evolutions. She followed them with her anxious 
eyes. She thought the magistrate must assuredly have gone 
to see M. Camy-Lamotte on this business, that the two men 
were talking about her, and that her fate was being settled 
at that very minute. 

Then, in despair, she was tormented by the desire to cast 
herself at once under a train rather than return to the Rue du 
Rocher. Just then a train was issuing from beneath the 



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The Monomaniac 137 

iron marquee of the main lines. She watched it coming 
and pass below her, puffing in her face a tepid cloud of 
white steam. Then the stupid uselessness of her journey, 
the frightful anguish she would carry away with her, should 
she fail to have the energy to go and find out something 
certain, were impressed on her mind with such vigour, that 
she gave herself five minutes to gain courage. 

Engines were whistling. Her eyes followed a small one, 
branching off a train that served the environs; and, then 
looking up towards the left, she recognised above the 
courtyard of the small parcels department, at the very top 
of the house in the Impasse d* Amsterdam, the window of 
Mother Victoire — that window on whose rail she again saw 
herself leaning with her husband, before the abominable scene 
that had caused their calamity. This brought home to her the 
danger of her position with such a keen pang of pain, that 
she suddenly felt ready to encounter anything, to put an end 
to the business. The blasts of the horn, and the prolonged 
rumbling noise deafened her, while thick smoke flying over 
the great, clear, Parisian sky, barred the horizon. And she 
again took the road to the Rue du Rocher, wending her 
way with the feelings of a person going to commit suicide, 
stepping out with precipitation, in sudden fear lest she might 
find no one there. 

When SeVerine had touched the bell a renewed feeling 
of terror turned her icy cold. But a footman, after taking 
her name, had already offered her a seat in an antechamber ; 
and through the doors, gently set ajar, she very distinctly 
heard the lively conversation of two voices. Then followed 
profound and absolute silence. She could distinguish naught 
but the dull throbbing of her temples. And she said to 
herself that the magistrate must still be in conference, and 
that she would no doubt be kept waiting a long time ; and 
this idea of waiting seemed intolerable. All at once, she 
met with a surprise ; the footman came to her, and showed 



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138 The Monomaniac 

her in. The magistrate had certainly not gone. She con- 
jectured he was there, hidden behind a door. 

She found herself in a large study, with black furniture, 
a thick carpet, and heavy door-hangings, so severe and so 
completely closed, that not a sound from the outside could 
penetrate within. Nevertheless, there were some flowers, some 
pale roses in a bronze corbeil, and this indicated a sort of 
concealed grace, a taste for amiable life beneath all this severity. 
The master of the house was on his feet, very correctly 
attired in a frock-coat ; he also looked severe with his pinched 
face, which his greyish whiskers rendered slightly fuller. But 
he had all the elegance of a former beau who had remained 
slim, and a demeanour that one felt would be pleasant, 
freed from the stiffness that his official position made him 
assume. In the subdued light of the apartment, he looked 
very tall. 

Severine, on entering, felt oppressed by the close atmo- 
sphere caused by the hangings, and she saw no one but 
M. Camy-Lamotte, who watched her approach. He made 
no motion to invite her to be seated, and he was careful 
not to open his mouth the first, waiting for her to explain 
the motive of her visit. This prolonged the silence. But, 
as the result of a violent reaction, she all at once found she 
was mistress of herself in the peril, and remained very calm, 
and very prudent. 

" Sir," said she, " you will excuse me if I make so bold 
as to come and solicit your goodwill. You are aware of 
the irreparable loss I have suffered, and, abandoned as I now 
am, I have had the courage to think of you to defend us, 
to continue to give us a little of the same support as your 
friend, my deeply regretted protector." 

M. Camy-Lamotte was then obliged to wave his hand 
to a seat, for she had spoken in a strain that was perfect, 
without exaggerated humility or grief, with the innate art of 
feminine hypocrisy; but he still maintained silence. IJe 



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The Monomaniac 139 

had himself sat down, still waiting. Seeing she must explain, 
she continued: 

" Allow me to refresh your memory by reminding you that 
I have had the honour of seeing you at Doinville. Ah! 
those were happy days for me ! At present, bad times have 
come, and I have no one but you, sir. I implore you, in the 
name of him we have lost, you who were his intimate friend, 
to complete his good work, to take his place beside us." 

He listened, he looked at her, and all his suspicions were 
wavering; she seemed so natural, so charming in her ex- 
pressions of regret and supplication. It had struck him that 
the letter he had found among the papers of Grandmorin, those 
two unsigned lines, could only have come from her, whom 
he knew to be intimate with the President, and just now the 
mere mention of her visit had completely convinced him. 
He had only interrupted his interview with the magistrate, 
to confirm his conviction. But how could he think her 
guilty seeing her as she appeared — so quiet and so sweet ? 

He wished to set his mind at rest. And while maintaining 
an air of severity, he said : 

"Tell me what it is all about, madam. I remember 
perfectly. I shall only be too happy to be of use to you, if 
there is no impediment." 

SeVerine then related, very plainly, that her husband was 
threatened with dismissal. They were very jealous of him on . 
account of his merit, and of the high patronage which hitherto 
had covered him. Now, thinking him without support, they 
hoped to triumph, and redoubled their efforts. Nevertheless, 
she mentioned no names. She spoke in measured terms in 
spite of the imminent peril. For her to have decided on 
making the journey to Paris, she must have been convinced 
of the necessity of acting as rapidly as possible. Perhaps 
to-morrow it would be no longer time; it was immediately 
that she required help and succour. She related all this with 
§uch an abundance, of logical facts, and good reasons, that it 



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14° The Monomaniac 

seemed to hira really impossible that she should have taken 
the trouble to come up with any other object. 

M. Camy-Lamotte studied her even to the slight, almost 
imperceptible quiver of her lips, and he struck the first blow. 

"But why should the company dismiss your husband? 
They have nothing grave to reproach him with," said he. 

Neither did her eyes leave him. She sat watching the 
faintest lines on his face, wondering if he had found the 
letter; and, notwithstanding the apparent innocence of 
the question, she abruptly became convinced that the letter 
was there, in one of the pieces of furniture in that study. He 
knew all about it, for he had set a trap for her, anxious to 
learn whether she would dare mention the real reasons for 
his dismissal. Moreover, he had too forcibly accentuated his 
tone, and she felt herself probed to the innermost recesses of 
her being, by his sparkless eyes of a worn-out man. 

Bravely she advanced to the peril. 

" Dear me, sir ! " she said ; " it sounds very monstrous, but 
they suspected us of killing our benefactor, on account of 
that unfortunate will. We had no difficulty in proving our 
innocence, only there always remains something of these 
abominable accusations, and the company no doubt fears 
the scandal." 

He was again surprised, thrown off his guard, by this 
frankness, particularly by the sincerity of her accent. Besides, 
having at first glance considered her face merely passable, 
he began to find her extremely seductive, with the complacent 
submissiveness of her blue eyes, set off by the energy of her 
raven hair. She was really very charming, very refined, and 
he allowed the smile of an amateur of feminine charms, no 
longer interested in such matters, to mingle with the grand, 
cold manner of the functionary who had such a disagreeable 
affair on his hands. 

But S^verine, with the bravado of the woman who feels 
her strength, had the imprudence to add: 



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The Monomaniac 141 

"Persons like ourselves do not kill for money. There 
would have been some other motive, and there was none." 

He looked at her, and saw the corners of her mouth quiver. 
It was she. Thenceforth his conviction was absolute. And 
she understood, immediately, that she had given herself up, 
at the way in which he had ceased to smile, and at his 
nervously pinched chin. She felt like fainting, as if all her 
being was abandoning her. Nevertheless, she remained on 
her chair, her bust straight. She heard her voice continuing 
to converse in the same even tone, uttering the words it was 
necessary to say. The conversation pursued its course ; but, 
henceforth, neither had anything further to learn. He had 
the letter. It was she who had written it. 

" Madam," he at last resumed, " I do not refuse to intercede 
with the company, if you are really worthy of interest. It 
so happens that I am expecting the traffic-manager this 
afternoon, on some other business. Only, I shall require a few 
notes. Look here, just write me down the name, the age, 
the record of service, of your husband ; briefly, all that is 
necessary to post me up in regard to your position." 

And he pushed a small occasional-table towards her, ceasing 
to look at her, so as not to frighten her too much. She 
shuddered. He wanted a page of her handwriting, in order to 
compare it with the letter. For a moment she despairingly 
sought a pretext, resolved not to write. Then she reflected : 
what was the good of that, as he knew ? It would be easy 
to obtain a few lines she had penned. Without any visible 
discomposure, in the simplest manner in the world, she 
wrote down what he asked her for; while he, standing up 
behind her, recognised the writing perfectly, although taller 
and less shaky than that in the note. And he ended by 
thinking this slim little woman very brave. He smiled 
again, now she was unable to see him, with that smile 
of the man who is no longer touched by anything, save 
the charm, and whom experience in everything has made 



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142 The Monomaniac 

insouciant. After all, it was not worth the trouble to be just. 
He only watched over the decorative part of the regime he 
served. 

"Very well, madam," said he, "give me this. I will 
make inquiries; I will do the best I can." 

"I am very much obliged to you, sir," she answered. "So 
you will see that my husband is maintained in his position ? 
I may consider the affair arranged?" 

" Ah ! no, indeed ! " he exclaimed ; " I bind myself to 
nothing. I shall have to see, to think the matter over." 

In fact he was hesitating. He did not know what course 
he would follow in regard to the couple. And she was in 
anguish, since she felt herself at his mercy : this hesitation, 
this alternative of being saved or ruined by him, without 
being able to guess the reasons that would influence him 
in his decision, drove her crazy. 

"Oh! sir! think how tormented we are! You will not 
let me leave without a certainty," she pleaded. 

"Indeed, madam, I can do nothing. You must wait," 
said he. 

He led her to the door. She was going away in despair, 
beside herself, on the point of confessing everything, openly, 
feeling the immediate necessity of forcing him to say distinctly 
what he intended doing with them. To remain a minute 
longer, hoping to find a subterfuge, she exclaimed : 

" Ah ! I forgot ! I wished to ask your advice about 
that wretched will. Do you think we ought to refuse the 
legacy ? " 

" The law is on your side," he prudently answered. " It 
is a matter of appreciation, and of circumstances." 

She was on the threshold of the door, and she made a 
final effort. 

" Sir," said she, " do not allow me to leave thus ! Tell me 
if I may hope." 

With a gesture of abandonment, she had seized his hand. 



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The Monomaniac 143 

He drew it away. But she looked at him with her beautiful 
eyes so ardent with prayer, that he was stirred. 

"Very well, then, return here at five o'clock. Perhaps 
I may have something to tell you." 

She went off. She quitted the house in still greater agony 
than on entering it. The situation had become clear, her fate 
remained in suspense. She was threatened with arrest which 
might take place at once. How could she keep alive until 
five o'clock ? Suddenly she thought of Jacques, whom she had 
forgotten. He was another who might be her ruin, if they 
took her in charge ! Although it was barely half-past two, 
she hastened to ascend the Rue du Rocher, in the direction 
of the Rue Cardinet. 

M. Camy-Lamotte, left alone, stood before his writing-table. 
A familiar figure at the Tuileries, where his functions as 
chief secretary to the Ministry of Justice, caused him to be 
summoned almost daily, as powerful as the Minister himself, 
and even entrusted with more delicate duties, he was aware 
how irritating and alarming this Grandmorin case proved in 
high quarters. The opposition newspapers continued to carry 
on a noisy campaign; some accusing the police of being so 
busy with political business, that they had no time to arrest 
murderers ; the others, probing the life of the President, gave 
their readers to understand that he belonged to the Court, 
where the lowest kind of debauchery prevailed; and this 
campaign really became disastrous, as the time for the 
elections approached. And so it had been formally intimated 
to the chief secretary, that he must bring the business to 
a termination as rapidly as possible, no matter how. The 
Minister, having relieved himself of this delicate affair by 
passing it on to him, he found himself sole arbiter of the 
decision to be taken, but on his own responsibility, it is true ; 
a matter that required looking into, for he had no idea of 
paying for the others, should he prove inexpert. 

M. Camy-Lamotte, still thinking, went and opened the door 



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H4 The Monomaniac 

of the adjoining room where M. Denizet was waiting. And 
the latter, who had overheard everything, exclaimed on 
entering : 

"What did I say? It is wrong to suspect those people. 
This woman is evidently only thinking of saving her husband 
from possible dismissal. She did not utter a single word 
that could arouse suspicion." 

The chief secretary did not answer at once. All absorbed, 
his eyes on the magistrate, struck by his heavy, thin-lipped 
face, he was now thinking of that magistracy, which he held 
in his hand, as occult chief of its members, and he felt 
astonished that it was still so worthy in its poverty, so 
intelligent in its professional torpidity. But really, this 
gentleman, however sharp he might fancy himself, with his 
eyes veiled with thick lids, was tenacious in his conviction, 
when he thought he had got hold of the truth. 

" So," resumed M. Camy-Lamotte, " you persist in believing 
in the guilt of this Cabuche ? " 

M. Denizet started in astonishment. 

" Oh ! certainly ! " said he ; " everything is against him ! I 
enumerated the proofs to you. I may say they are classic, 
for not one is wanting. I did not fail to look for an 
accomplice, a woman in the coups', as you suggested. This 
seemed to agree with the evidence of a driver, a man who 
caught a glimpse of the murder scene. But skilfully cross- 
questioned by me, this man did not persist in his first 
statement, and he even recognised the travelling-rug, as being 
the dark bundle he had referred to. Oh ! yes ; Cabuche is 
certainly the culprit, and the more so, as, if we cannot fix it 
on him, we have no one else." 

Up to then, the chief secretary had delayed bringing the 
written proof he possessed to the knowledge of the magistrate; 
and now that he had formed a conviction, he was still less 
eager to establish the truth. What was the use of upsetting 
the false clue of the prosecution, if the real clue was to lead 



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The Monomaniac 145 

to greater embarrassments? All this would have to be 
considered in the first instance. 

" Very well," he resumed, with that smile of the worn-out 
man, "I am willing to admit you are right. I only sent 
for you for the purpose of discussing certain grave points. 
This is an exceptional case, and it has now become quite 
political; you feel this, do you not? We shall therefore, 
perhaps, find ourselves compelled to act as government men. 
Come, frankly, this girl, the sweetheart of Cabuche, was 
victimised, eh?" 

The magistrate gave the pout of a cunning fellow, whilst 
his eyes became half lost in his lids. 

" If you ask me," said he, " I think the President put her 
in a great fright, and this will assuredly come out at the 
trial. Moreover, if the defence is entrusted to a lawyer of 
the opposition, we may expect a regular avalanche of tiresome 
tales ; for there is no lack of these stories down there, in 
our part of the country." 

This Denizet was not so stupid when free from the routine 
of the profession, where he soared on high in his unlimited 
perspicacity and mighty power. He understood why he 
had been * summoned to the private residence of the chief 
secretary, in preference to the Ministry of Justice. 

"Briefly," concluded he, seeing that M. Camy-Lamotte did 
not open his mouth, " we shall have a rather nasty business." 

The chief secretary confined himself to tossing his head. 
He was engaged in calculating the results of the trial of the 
Roubauds. It was a dead certainty that if the husband were 
brought up at the assizes, he would relate all : how his wife 
had been led astray, she also, when a young girl, and the 
intrigues that followed, and the jealous rage that had urged 
him on to murder, without taking into consideration that, 
in this instance, it was not a question of a domestic and 
a convicted criminal. This assistant station-master, married 
to this pretty woman, would mix up a number of people of 

10 



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146 The Monomaniac 

independent means, and others connected with the railways, 
in the business. Then, who could tell where the affairs of 
a man like the President would lead them? They might 
perhaps fall into unforeseen abominations. No, decidedly; 
the case against the Roubauds, the real culprits, was more 
objectionable than the other. He had made up his mind; 
he put it absolutely aside. If they had to choose between 
the two, he was in favour of proceeding with the prosecution 
of the innocent Cabuche. 

" I give in to your theory," he at last said to M. Denizet. 
" There are, indeed, strong presumptions against the quarry- 
man, if so be he had a legitimate vengeance to satisfy ; 
but all this is very sad, and what a quantity of mud will be 
thrown about ! Of course I know that justice should remain 
indifferent to consequences, and that, soaring above the 
interests " 

He concluded his phrase with a gesture, while the magistrate, 
silent in turn, awaited with gloomy countenance, the orders 
he felt were coming. From the moment they accepted his 
idea of the truth — that creation of his own intelligence, he 
was ready to sacrifice the idea of justice to the require- 
ments of the government. But the secretary, notwithstanding 
his usual dexterity in this kind of transaction, hastened on 
a little, spoke too rapidly, like a chief in the habit of 
being obeyed. 

"Finally, what is desired is that you should desist from 
further proceedings," said he. "Arrange matters so that 
the case may be shelved." 

" Excuse me, sir," answered M. Denizet, " I am no longer 
master of the case ; it rests with my conscience." 

At once M. Camy-Lamotte smiled, becoming correct again, 
with an easy and polite bearing that seemed full of mockery. 

"No doubt; and it is to your conscience that I appeal. 
I leave you to take the decision it may dictate, convinced 
that you will equitably weigh both sides, in view of the 



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The Monomaniac 147 

triumph of healthy doctrines, and public morality. You know, 
better than I can tell you, that it is sometimes heroic to 
accept one evil, rather than fall into another that is worse. 
Briefly, one only appeals to you as a good citizen, an upright 
man. No one thinks of interfering with your independence, 
and that is why I repeat that you are absolute master in 
the matter, as, for that matter, it has been provided 
by law." 

Jealous of this illimited power, particularly when prepared 
to make a bad use of it, the magistrate welcomed each of 
these sentences with a nod of satisfaction. 

" Besides/ continued the other, redoubling his good grace, 
with an exaggeration that was becoming sarcastic, " we know 
whom we address. We have long been watching your efforts ; 
and I may tell you that we should call you without delay 
to Paris, were there a vacancy." 

M. Denizet made a movement. What was this? If 
he rendered the service required of him, they would not 
satisfy his great ambition, his dream of a seat at Paris. 
But M. Camy-Lamotte, who understood, lost no time in 
adding : 

" Your place is marked. It is a question of time. Only, 
as I have commenced to be indiscreet, I am happy to be 
able to tell you that your name is down for the cross, on 
the Emperor's next f&e-day." 

The magistrate reflected a moment. He would have 
preferred advancement, for he reckoned that it carried with 
it an increase of about 166 frcs., or £6 16s., a month in salary. 
And, in the decent misery in which he lived, this meant greater 
comfort, his wardrobe renewed, his servant M&anie better 
fed, and in consequence better tempered; but the cross, 
nevertheless, was worth having. Then, he had a promise. 
And he, who would not have sold himself, nurtured in the 
tradition of this magistracy, upright and mediocre, he at 
once yielded to a simple hope, to the vague promise that 



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148 The Monomaniac 

the administration made to favour him. The judicial function 
was nothing more than a trade like others, and he bore 
along the burden of advancement, in the quality of a humble 
solicitant, ever ready to bend to the orders of authority. 

"I feel very much touched at the honour," he murmured. 
" Kindly say so to the Minister." 

He had risen, feeling that anything they might add, would 
cause uneasiness. 

"So," he concluded, his eyes dim, his face expressionless, 
" I shall complete my inquiry, bearing your scruples in mind. 
Of course, if we have not absolute proof against this Cabuche, 
it would be better not to risk the useless scandal of a trial. 
He shall be set at liberty and watched." 

The chief secretary, on the threshold of his study, made 
a final display of effusive amiability. 

" Monsieur Denizet," said he, " we entirely rely on your 
great tact and high rectitude." 

M. Camy-Lamotte, alone again, had the curiosity which, 
however, was useless, now, to compare the page penned by 
S^verine with the unsigned note he had found among the 
papers of President Grandmorin. The resemblance proved 
complete. He folded up the letter and put it carefully away, 
for, if he had not breathed a word about it to the examining - 
magistrate, he nevertheless considered such an arm worth 
keeping. And as he recalled the profile of this little woman, 
so delicate, and yet so strong in her nervous resistance, he 
gave an indulgent, mocking shrug of the shoulders. Ah ! 
those creatures, when they mean it! 

When S£verine reached the Rue Cardinet at twenty minutes 
to three, to keep her appointment with Jacques, she found 
herself before her time. He occupied a small room right at 
the top of a great house, to which he only ascended at night 
for the purpose of sleeping. And he slept out twice a week, 
on the two nights he passed at Havre, between the evening 
and morning express. On that particular day, however, 



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The Monomaniac 149 

drenched with rain, broken down with fatigue, he had gone 
there and thrown himself on his bed. So that S^verine would 
perhaps have waited for him in vain, had not a quarrel in 
an adjoining apartment, a husband brutalising his shrieking 
wife, awakened him. He had washed and dressed in a very 
bad humour, having recognised her below, on the pavement, 
while looking out of his garret window. 

" So it's you at last ! " she exclaimed, when she saw him 
issue from the front door. " I was afraid I had misunder- 
stood. You really did tell me at the corner of the 
Rue Saussure " 

And without awaiting his answer, raising her eyes to the 
house, she remarked : 

" So it's there you live ? " 

Without telling her, he had made the appointment before 
his own door, because the depot where they had to go 
together, was opposite. But her question worried him. He 
imagined she was going to take advantage of their good 
fellowship, to ask him to let her see his room, which was so 
simply furnished, and in such disorder, that he felt ashamed 
of it. 

" Oh ! I don't live there ! " he replied ; " I perch. Let us 
be quick, I am afraid the chief may have already gone out ! " 

And so it happened, for when they presented themselves 
at the small house which the latter occupied behind the 
depot, within the station walls, they did not find him. In 
vain they went from shed to shed, everywhere they were 
told to return at about half-past four, if they wished to be 
sure of catching him at the repairing workshops. 

"Very well, we will return," said S^verine. 

Then, when she was again outside, alone in the company 
of Jacques, she remarked : 

" If you are free, perhaps you will not mind if I remain 
and wait with you?" 

He could not refuse ; and, moveover, notwithstanding the 



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150 The Monomaniac 

gloomy anxiety she caused, she exercised such a great and 
ever-increasing charm over him, that the sullen attitude he 
had made up his mind to observe, vanished at her sweet 
glances. This one, with her long, tender, timid face, must 
love like a faithful hound, whom one would not even have 
the courage to thrash. 

" Of course I shall not leave you," he answered, in a less 
surly tone ; " only we have more than an hour to get through. 
Would you like to go to a cafe*?" 

She smiled, delighted to find him more cordial. Vivaciously 
she protested: 

" Oh ! no, no ; I don't want to shut myself up ! I prefer 
walking on your arm through the streets, anywhere you like." 

And gracefully she took his arm of her own accord/ Now 
that he was free from the dirt of the journey, she thought 
him superior-looking, in his attire of a clerk in easy circum- 
stances, and with his gentlemanly bearing, enhanced by a 
look of independent pride, due to his life in the open air 
and the daily habit of facing danger. She had never noticed 
so distinctly that he was handsome, with his regular, round 
countenance, and his black moustache on a white skin. 
His fleeting eyes, those eyes studded with golden sparks, 
which turned away from her, alone continued to cause her 
distrust. If he avoided looking her straight in the face, was 
it because he would not bind himself to anything, because 
he wished to retain his freedom to act as he pleased, even 
against her? 

From that moment, in her uncertainty as to his intentions, 
shuddering each time she thought of that study in the Rue 
du Rocher where her life lay in the balance, she had but 
one aim — to feel that this man, who gave her his arm, 
belonged to her entirely; to obtain, that when she raised 
her head, his eyes should look deeply into her own. Then 
he would be her property. She did not love him; she did 
not even think of such a thing. She was simply doing her 



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The Monomaniac 151 

utmost to make him her creature, so that she need fear 
him no more. 

They walked for a few minutes without speaking, amid 
the continual stream of passers-by who obstruct this populous 
quarter. Ever and anon they were compelled to leave the 
pavement ; they crossed the road among the vehicles. Then 
they found themselves at the Square des Batignolles, which 
is almost deserted at this time of year. The sky, cleansed 
by the deluge of the morning, wore a tint of very soft blue, 
and the lilac-bushes were budding in the gentle March sun. 

" Shall we go into the garden ? " inquired Severine. " All 
this crowd makes me giddy." 

Jacques had intended entering the enclosure of his own 
accord, unconscious of his desire to have her more to 
himself, far from the multitude of people. 

"As you like," said he. " Let us go in." 

Slowly they continued walking beside the grass, between 
the leafless trees. A few women were out with babies in 
long clothes, and persons were hurrying across the garden 
to make a short cut. Jacques and Severine took the brook 
at a stride, and ascended among the rocks. Then, retracing 
their steps, not knowing where to go, they passed through 
a cluster of pines, whose lasting dark green foliage shone 
in the sun. And there, in this solitary corner, stood a 
bench hidden from view. They sat down, without even 
consulting one another this time, as if they had agreed to 
come to that spot. 

" It is lovely weather," she remarked after a silence. 

"Yes," he replied; "the sun has made its appearance 
again." 

But their thoughts were elsewhere. He, who fled women, 
had been reflecting on the events that had drawn him to this 
one. She sat there, touching him, threatening to invade 
his existence, and he experienced endless surprise. Since 
the last examination at Rouen, he no longer had any doubt. 



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*5 2 The Monomaniac 

This woman was an accomplice in the murder at La Croix-de- 
Maufras. How was it ? As the result of what circumstances ? 
Urged to the crime by what passion, or what interest ? He 
had asked himself these questions, without being able to 
answer them clearly. Nevertheless, he had ended by 
arranging a version : the husband, avaricious and violent, 
yearned to get possession of the legacy ; perhaps he feared the 
will might be altered to their disadvantage ; perhaps he wished 
to attach his wife to him by a sanguinary bond. And he 
clung to this version. The obscure parts of it interested 
him without him seeking to elucidate them. 

The idea that it was his duty to unbosom himself to justice, 
had also haunted him. It was this idea, indeed, that had 
been engaging his attention since he had found himself seated 
on that bench close to S£verine, so close that he could feel 
the warmth of her form against his own. 

" It's astonishing," he resumed, " to be able to remain out 
of doors like this, in the month of March, just as in summer." 

"Oh!" said she, "as soon as the sun ascends, it is 
delightful ! " 

And, on her side, she reflected that this man would have 
been an idiot, had he not guessed them the culprits. They 
had been too eager to force themselves on him, and at this 
very moment she continued to press too close to him. 
And so, in the silence broken by empty phrases, she followed 
his reflections. 

Their eyes had met. She had just read in his, that he 
had come to the point of inquiring of himself whether it was 
not she whom he had seen, weighing with all her weight 
on the legs of the victim, like a dark bundle. What could 
she do? what could she say, to bind him to her by an 
inseverable bond? 

" This morning," she remarked, " it was very cold at Havre." 

"Without taking into account," said he, "all the rain 
that fell." 



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The Monomaniac 153 

At that instant, SeVerine had an abrupt inspiration. She 
did not reason, she did not think the matter over; it came 
to her like an instinctive impulsion from the obscure depths 
of her intelligence and heart. Had she thought about it, 
she would have said nothing. She simply felt the idea was 
good, and that by speaking she would conquer him. 

Gently she took his hand. She looked at him. The 
cluster of green trees hid them from the pedestrians in the 
neighbouring streets. They only heard a distant rumble 
of vehicles that came deadened to this sunny solitude of 
the square. Alone, at the bend of the path, a child played 
in silence, filling a small pail with sand with a wooden 
spade. Without wavering in her idea, with all her soul, 
and in a low voice she put this question to him : 

" You believe me guilty ? " 

He slightly trembled, and looked into her eyes. 

" Yes," he answered, in the same low, unsteady tone. 

Then she pressed his hand, which she had retained, in 
a tighter clasp. But she' did not continue speaking at once. 
She felt their feverish warmth mingling in one. 

" You are mistaken," she resumed ; "lam not guilty." 

She did not say this to convince him, but simply to warn 
him that she must be innocent in the eyes of others. It 
was the avowal of the woman who says no, desiring it to 
be no, in spite of all, and always. 

"I am not guilty," she added. "You will not continue 
to pain me by believing I am guilty?" 

And she was very happy to see his eyes gazing deeply 
into her own. Without doubt what she had just said, was 
equivalent to selling herself to him, for she gave herself 
away, and later on, if he claimed her, she could not refuse. 
But the bond was tied between them, and could not be 
severed. She absolutely defied him to speak now. He 
belonged to her, as she belonged to him. The avowal had 
united them. 



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154 The Monomaniac 

"You will not cause me any more pain?" she asked. 
" You believe me ? " 

" Yes, I believe you," he replied, smiling. 

What need was there to force her to talk brutally of this 
frightful event? Later on, she would tell him all about it, 
if she wished to do so. This way of tranquillising herself by 
confessing to him, without saying anything, touched him 
deeply, as a proof of infinite tenderness. She was so con- 
fiding, so fragile, with her gentle blue eyes. She appeared 
to him so womanly, devoted to man, ever ready to submit to 
him so as to be happy. And what delighted him above 
all else, while their hands remained joined and their eyes 
never parted, was to find himself free from his disorder, the 
frightful shiver that agitated him when beside a woman. 
Could he love this one, without killing her? 

"You know I am your friend, and that you have naught 
to fear from me," he murmured in her ear. " I do not 
want to know your business. It shall be as you please, 
you understand. Make any use of me you like." 

He had approached so close to her face that he felt her 
warm breath in his moustache. That morning, even, he 
would have trembled at such a thing, in the wild terror of 
an attack. What could be passing within him, that he barely 
felt a thrill, attended by the pleasant lassitude of con- 
valescence ? This idea that she had killed a fellow creature, 
which had now become a certainty, made her appear different 
in his eyes — greater, a person apart. Perhaps she had not 
merely assisted, but had also struck. He felt convinced of it, 
without the slightest proof. And, henceforth, she seemed 
sacred to him, beyond all reasoning. 

Both of them now chatted gaily, as a couple just met, 
with whom love is commencing. 

"You should give me your other hand," said he, "for 
me to warm it." 

" Oh ! no, not here," she protested. " We might be seen." 



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The Monomaniac 155 

" Who by, as we are alone ? " he inquired. " And, besides, 
there would be no harm in it," he added. 

She laughed frankly in her joy at being saved. She did 
not love this man, she thought she was quite sure of that ; and, 
indeed, if she had involved herself, she was already thinking 
of a way out of the difficulty. He looked nice ; he would 
not torment her ; everything could be arranged beautifully. 

" We are comrades, that's settled," said she ; " and neither 
my husband nor anyone else shall interfere. Now, let go 
of my hand, and do not keep on staring at me like that, 
because you will spoil your eyes ! " 

But he detained her delicate fingers between his own, 
and very lowly he stammered: 

" You know I love you." 

Sharply she freed herself with a slight jerk ; and, standing 
before the bench, where he remained seated, she exclaimed : 

" What nonsense, indeed ! Conduct yourself properly ; 
someone is coming!" 

A wetnurse appeared, with her baby asleep in her arms. 
Then a young girl passed along in a great hurry. The 7 sun 
was sinking, disappearing on the horizon in a violescent mist, 
and its rays vanished from the grass, dying away in golden 
dust beside the green patch of pines. A sudden pause 
came in the continual rumble of vehicles. Five o'clock was 
heard striking at a neighbouring clock. 

" Good heavens ! " exclaimed S£verine. " Five o'clock, 
and I have an appointment in the Rue du Rocher ! " 

Her joy departed, back came the agony of the unknown 
awaiting her there, and she remembered she was not yet 
saved. She turned quite pale, and her lip quivered. 

" But you have to see the chief of the depot," said Jacques. 

" It cannot be helped ! " she replied ; " I must pay him a 
visit another time. Listen, my friend, I will not keep you 
any longer. Let me go quickly on my errand. And thanks 
again, thanks from the bottom of my heart." 



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156 The Monomaniac 

She squeezed his hand, and hurried off. 

" By-and-bye at the train," he called after her. 

" Yes, by-and-bye," she answered. 

She was already walking rapidly away, and soon disappeared 
among the clusters of shrubs ; whilst he proceeded leisurely, 
in the direction of the Rue Cardinet. 

M. Camy-Lamotte had just had a long interview in his 
study, with the traffic-manager of the Western Railway 
Company. Summoned under pretext of some other business, 
the latter had ended by admitting that the company felt 
very much annoyed at this Grandmorin case. First of all, 
came the complaints of the newspapers, in regard to the little 
security enjoyed by first-class passengers. Then all the staff 
were mixed up in the drama. Several of their servants were 
suspected, without counting this Roubaud, who appeared the 
most involved, and who might be arrested at any moment. 
The rumours of the irregular mode of life of the President, 
who had a seat on the board of directors, seemed to bespatter 
the whole board. And it was thus that the presumed 
crime of an insignificant assistant station-master, attributed 
to some shady, low, and nauseous intrigue, threatened to 
disorganise the management of an important railway 
enterprise. 

The shock had even been felt in higher places. It had 
gained the Ministry, menaced the State at a moment of 
political uneasiness. It was a critical time, when the slightest 
effervescence might hasten the downfall of the Empire. 

So when M. Camy-Lamotte heard from his visitor, that 
the company had that morning decided to dismiss Roubaud, 
he energetically opposed the measure. No ! no ! nothing 
could be more clumsy ! The rumpus in the press would 
increase, should the writers take it into their heads to set 
up the assistant station-master as a political victim. Every- 
thing would be rent from top to bottom, and heaven only 
knew what unpleasant revelations would be made about one 



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The Monomaniac 157 

and another ! The scandal had lasted too long, and must be 
put an end to at once. And the traffic-manager, convinced, 
had undertaken to maintain Roubaud in his post, and not 
even to remove him from Havre. It would soon be seen 
that there were no disreputable people on their staff. It 
was all over. The matter would be shelved. 

When S^verine, out of breath, her heart beating violently, 
found herself once more in the severe study in the Rue du 
Rocher, before M. Camy-Lamotte, the latter contemplated 
her an instant in silence, interested at the extraordinary effort 
she made to appear calm. He certainly felt sympathy for 
this delicate criminal with the soft blue eyes. 

" Well, madam " he began. 

And he paused to enjoy her anxiety a few seconds longer. 
But her look was so profound, he felt her casting herself 
before him in such a burning desire to learn her fate that 
he had pity. 

" Well, madam," he resumed, " I've seen the traffic-manager, 
and have persuaded him not to dismiss your husband. The 
matter is settled." 

Then, in the flood of joy that overwhelmed her, she broke 
down. Her eyes were full of tears; but she answered 
nothing. She only smiled. 

He repeated what he had said, laying stress on the phrase, 
to convey to her all its significance : 

" The matter is settled ; you can return in tranquillity to 
Havre ! " 

She heard well enough : he meant to say that they would 
not be arrested, that they were pardoned. It was not 
merely the position maintained, it was the horrible drama 
forgotten, buried. With an instinctive caressing movement, 
like a pretty, domestic animal that thanks and fawns, she 
bent over his hands, kissed them, kept them pressed to her 
cheeks. And this time, very much troubled himself at the 
tender charm of her gratitude, he did not withdraw them. 



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i5 8 The Monomaniac 

"Only," he continued, trying to resume his severity, "do 
not forget, and behave properly." 

" Oh ! sir ! " she exclaimed. 

In the desire to have them both at his mercy, he alluded 
to the letter. 

" Remember that the papers remain there, and that at the 
least fault, the matter will be brought up again. Above all, 
advise your husband not to meddle in politics. On that 
point we shall be pitiless. I know he has already given 
cause for complaint; they spoke to me of an annoying 
quarrel with the sub-prefect. It seems that he passes for 
a republican, which is detestable, is it not? Let him 
behave himself, or we shall simply suppress him." 

She was standing up, anxious now to be outside, to give 
room to the joy she felt stifling her. 

"Sir," she answered, "we shall obey you; we will do as 
you please; no matter when, nor where. You have only 
to command." 

He began to smile again, in his weary way, with just a 
tinge of that disdain of a man who has taken a long draught 
at the cup of all things, and drained it dry. 

He opened the door of his study to her. On the landing, 
she turned round twice, and with her visage beaming, thanked 
him again. 

Once in the Rue du Rocher, S^verine walked along without 
giving a thought to where she was going. All at once, she 
perceived she was ascending the street to no purpose. 
Turning round, she descended the slope, crossed the road 
with no object, at the risk of being knocked down. She felt 
she wanted to move about, to gesticulate, to shout. She 
already understood why they had been pardoned, and she 
caught herself saying: 

" Of course ! They are afraid ; there is no fear of them 
stirring up the business. I was a great fool to give myself 
all that torture. It was evident they would do nothing. 







The Monomaniac 159 

Ah ! what luck ! Saved, saved for good this time ! But 
no matter, I mean to frighten my husband, so as to make 
him keep quiet. Saved, saved ! What luck ! " 

As she turned into the Rue St. Lazare, she saw by a 
clock at the shop of a jeweller, that it wanted twenty minutes 
to six. 

" By Jove ! I'll stand myself a good dinner. I have time," 
said she to herself. 

Opposite the station she picked out the most luxurious- 
looking restaurant; and, seated alone at a small table, with 
snow-white cloth, against the undraped plate-glass window, 
intensely amused at the movement in the street, she ordered 
a nice meal: oysters, filets-de-sole, and the wing of a roast 
fowl. She was well entitled to make up for a bad lunch. 
She ate with a first rate appetite, found the bread, made of 
the finest flour — the pain-de-gruau — exquisite ; and she had 
some beignets souffle's prepared for her, by way of sweets. 
Then, when she had taken her coffee, she hurried off, for 
she had only a few minutes left to catch the express. 

Jacques, on leaving her, after paying a visit to his room 
to put on his working-garments, had at once made his way 
to the depot, where, as a rule, he never showed himself 
until half an hour before the departure of his locomotive. 
He had got into the habit of relying on Pecqueux to inspect 
the engine, notwithstanding that the latter was in drink two 
days out of three. But on that particular evening, in his 
tender emotion, he unconsciously felt a scruple. He wished 
to make sure, with his own eyes, that all the parts of the 
engine were in thorough working order; and ;the more so, 
as in the morning, on the way from Havre, he fancied 
he had noticed an increased expenditure of strength, for 
less work. 

Among the other locomotives at rest in the vast engine- 
house, into which daylight penetrated through tall, dusty 
windows, the one driven by Jacques was already at the 



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160 The Monomaniac 

head of a line, and destined to leave the first. A fireman 
belonging to the depot, had just made up the fire, and 
red-hot cinders were falling below into the ash-pit. 

It was one of those express engines with double axle-trees 
coupled together, of delicate elegance, and gigantic build ; 
with its great, light wheels united by steel arms, its broad 
chest, its elongated and mighty loins, conceived with all 
that logic and all that certainty, which make up the sovereign 
beauty of these metal beings — precision with strength. Like 
the other locomotives of the Western Company, this one 
bore the name of a railway-station as well as a number, 
that of Lison, a town in lower Normandy. But Jacques, 
in affection, had turned the word into a woman's name, by 
setting the feminine article before it — La Lison, as he called 
it with caressing gentleness. 

And, in truth, he fondly loved his engine, which he 
had driven for four years. He had been on others, some 
docile, some jibbers, some courageolis, and some lazy. He 
was well aware that each had its peculiar character, and 
that some were not worth much. So that if he was fond of 
this one, it was because it possessed rare qualities, being 
gentle, obedient, easy to set in motion, and gifted with even 
and lasting speed, thanks to its good vaporisation. 

Some pretended that if this locomotive started off so easily, 
it was due to its excellent tyres, and particularly to the 
perfect regulation of its slide-valves; and that if a large 
quantity of steam could be produced with little fuel, it was 
owing to the quality of the copper in the tubes, and to the 
satisfactory arrangement of the boiler. 

But he knew there was something else ; for other engines, 
built identically in the same way, put together with the same 
care, displayed none of the qualities of this one. There was 
the soul, so to say, to 'be taken into account, the mystery of 
the fabrication, that peculiar something which the hazard 
of the hammer gives to the metal, which the skill of the 



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The Monomaniac 161 

fitter conveys to the various pieces — the personality of the 
engine, its life. 

So he loved La Lison, which started quickly and stopped 
sharp, like a vigorous and docile steed ; he loved it because, 
apart from his fixed wages, it earned him cash, thanks to 
the gratuities on the consumption of fuel. Its excellent 
vaporisation effected, indeed, considerable economy in coal. It 
merited but one reproach, that of requiring too much oil. The 
cylinders, particularly, devoured unreasonable quantities of 
' this liquid. They had a constant appetite which nothing 
could appease. In vain had he sought to moderate it. The 
engine lost breath at once. Its constitution required all this 
nourishment. Ultimately, he had made up his mind to 
tolerate the gluttonous passion, just as the eyes are closed to 
a vice in people, who, in other respects, are full of qualities. 

Whilst the fire roared, and La Lison was gradually getting 
up steam, Jacques walked round and round the engine, 
inspecting it in all its £arts, endeavouring to discover why, 
in the morning, it should have put away more oil than 
usual. And he found nothing amiss. The locomotive was 
bright and clean, presenting that delightful appearance which 
indicates the good, tender care of the driver. He could 
be seen wiping, and furbishing the metal incessantly, parti- 
cularly at the end of a journey, in the same manner as 
smoking steeds are whisked down after a long run. He 
rubbed it vigorously, taking advantage of its being warm, 
to remove stains and foam more perfectly. 

He never played tricks with his locomotive, but kept it at 
an even pace, avoiding getting late, which would necessitate 
disagreeable leaps of speed. And the two had gone on so 
well together, that not once in four years had he lodged 
a complaint in the register at the dep6t, where drivers 
book their requests for repairs — the bad drivers, drunkards 
or idlers, who are ever at variance with their engines. But 
truly, on this particular evening, he had the consumption of 

ii 



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1 62 The Monomaniac 

oil at heart; and there was also another feeling, something 
vague and profound, which he had not hitherto experienced 
— anxiety, distrust, as if he could not rely on his engine, 
and wanted to make sure that it was not going to behave 
badly on the journey. 

Pecqueux was not there, and when he at length appeared, 
with flushed countenance, after lunching with a friend, 
Jacques flew into a rage. Habitually the two men agreed 
very well, in that long companionship, extending from one 
end of the line to the other, jolted side by side, silent, united 
by the same labour and the same dangers. 

Although Jacques was the junior of the other man by more 
than a decade, he showed himself paternal for his fireman, 
shielding his vices, allowing him to sleep for an hour when 
too far gone in drink; and the latter repaid him for 
this kindness with canine devotedness. Apart from his 
drunkenness, he was an excellent workman, thoroughly broken 
to his calling. It must be said, that he also loved La Lison, 
which sufficed for a good understanding between the two. 
And Pecqueux, taken aback at being so roughly welcomed, 
looked at Jacques with increased surprise, when he heard 
him grumbling his doubts about the engine. 

" What is the matter? Why, it goes beautifully ! " said the 
fireman. 

" No, no," answered Jacques ; "lam uneasy." 

And, notwithstanding each part of the locomotive being 
in good condition, he continued to toss his head. He turned 
the handles, assured himself that the safety-valve worked 
well, got on to the frame-plate, and attended to the grease- 
boxes of the cylinders himself; while the fireman wiped the 
dome, where a few slight traces of rust remained. Nothing 
was wrong with the sand-rod. All this should have set his 
mind at ease. 

The fact was, that La Lison no longer stood alone in his 
heart. Another tenderness was growing there for that slim, 



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The Monomaniac 163 

and very fragile creature, whom he continued to see beside 
him on the bench in the garden of the square. A girl so 
gentle, so caressing, so weak in character, and who needed 
love and protection. Never, when some involuntary cause 
had put him behind time, and he had sent his engine along 
at a speed of sixty miles an hour, never had he thought 
of the danger the passengers might be incurring. And, now, 
the mere idea of taking this woman back to Havre, this 
woman whom he almost detested in the morning, whom 
he brought up with annoyance, caused him great anxiety, 
and made him dread an accident, in which he imagined her 
wounded by his fault, and dying in his arms. The distrusted 
La Lison would do well to behave properly, if it wished to 
maintain the reputation of making good speed. 

It struck six. Jacques and Pecqueux climbed up to 
the foot-plate, and the latter, opening the exhaust-pipe at 
a sign from his chief, a coil of white steam filled the 
black engine-house. Then, responding to the handle of the 
regulator which the driver slowly turned, La Lison began 
to move, left the depot, and whistled for the line to be 
opened. Almost immediately the engine was able to enter 
the Batignolles tunnel, but at the Pont de PEurope it had 
to wait ; and it was not until the regulation time that the 
pointsman sent it on to the 6.30 express, to which a couple 
of porters firmly secured it. 

The train was about to leave ; it wanted but five minutes 
to the time, and Jacques leant over the side, surprised at not 
perceiving Severine among the swarm of passengers. He 
felt certain she would not seat herself without first of all 
coming to the engine. At last she appeared, behind time, 
almost running. And, as he had foreseen, she passed all 
along the train and only stopped when beside the locomotive, 
her face crimson, exulting with joy. 

Her little feet went on tiptoe, her face rose up, laughing. 

" Do not be alarmed ! " she exclaimed. " Here I am." 



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164 The Monomaniac 

He also laughed, happy to see her there, and answered : 

" Ah ! very good ! That's all right." 

But she went on tiptoe again, and resumed, in a lower 
tone: 

"My friend, I am pleased, very pleased. I have had a 
great piece of luck. All that I desired." 

He understood perfectly, and experienced great pleasure. 
Then, as she was running off, she turned round to add, 
in fun : 

" I say, don't you smash me up, now." 

And he gaily retorted : 

" Oh ! what next ? No fear ! " 

But the carriage doors were being slammed. Severine had 
only just time to get in. Jacques, at a signal from the chief- 
guard, blew the whistle, and then opened the regulator. They 
were off. The departure took place at the same time as 
that of the tragic train in February, amidst the same activity 
in the station, the same sounds, the same smoke. Only 
it was still daylight now, a clear crepuscule, infinitely soft. 
Severine, with her head at the window of the door, looked out 

Jacques, standing to the right on La Lison, warmly 
clothed in woollen trousers and vest, wearing spectacles with 
cloth sides, fastened behind his head under his cap, hence- 
forth never took his eyes off the line, leaning at every minute 
outside the cab so as to see better. Roughly shaken by 
the vibration, of which he was not even conscious, his 
right hand rested on the reversing-wheel, like that of a 
pilot on the wheel of the helm; and he manoeuvred it 
with a movement that was imperceptible and continuous, 
moderating, accelerating the rapidity; while, with his left 
hand, he never ceased sounding the whistle, for the exit from 
Paris is difficult, and beset with pitfalls. 

He whistled at the level crossings, at the stations, at the 
great curves. A red light having appeared in the distance, 
as daylight vanished, he for a long time inquired if the road 



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The Monomaniac 165 

was free, and then passed like lightning. It was only from 
time to time that he cast a glance at the steam-gauge, 
turning the injector-wheel as soon as the pressure reached ten 
kilogrammes. But it was always to the permanent way that 
his eyes returned, bent on observing its smallest peculiarities, 
and with such attention, that he saw nothing else, and did 
not even feel the wind blowing a tempest. The steam- 
gauge falling, he opened the door of the fire-box, raising 
the bars; and Pecqueux, accustomed to a gesture, under- 
stood at once. He broke up coal with his hammer, and 
with his shovel put on an even layer. The scorching heat 
burnt the legs of both of them. Then, the door once closed 
again, they had to face the current of icy air. 

When night closed in, Jacques became doubly prudent. 
Rarely had he found La Lison so obedient. He handled 
the engine as he pleased, with the absolute will of the master ; 
and yet he did not relax his severity, but treated it as a 
tamed animal that must always be distrusted. 

There, behind his back, in the train, whirling along at 
express speed, he saw a delicate, confiding, smiling face. He 
felt a slight shiver. With a firmer hand he grasped the 
reversing-wheel, piercing the increasing darkness with fixed 
eyes, in search of red lights. After the embranchments at 
Asnieres and Colombes, he breathed a little. As far as 
Mantes all went well, the line was as a sheet of glass, and 
the train rolled along at ease. 

After Mantes he had to urge La Lison on, so that it 
might ascend a rather steep incline, almost half a league long. 
Then, without slackening speed, he ran down the gentle 
slope to the Rolleboise tunnel, just about two miles in 
length, which he negotiated in barely three minutes. There 
remained but one more tunnel, that of La Rouie, near Gaillon, 
before the station of Sotteville — .a spot to be feared, for the 
complication of the lines, the continual shunting proceed- 
ing there, and the constant obstruction, made it exceedingly 



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1 66 The Monomaniac 

dangerous. All the strength of his being lay in his eyes 
which watched, in his hand which drove; and La Lison, 
whistling and smoking, dashed through Sotteville at full 
steam, only to stop at Rouen, whence it again set out, a 
trifle calmer, ascending more slowly the incline that extends 
as far as Malaunay. 

A very clear moon had risen, shedding a white light, by 
which Jacques was able to distinguish the smallest bushes, 
and even the stones on the roads, in their rapid flight. As 
he cast a glance to the right, on leaving the tunnel of 
Malaunay, disturbed at the shadow cast across the line by a 
great tree, he recognised the out-of-the-way corner, the field 
full of bushes, whence he had witnessed the murder. The 
wild, deserted country flew past, with its continuous hills, its 
raw black patches of copses, its ravaged desolation. Next, 
at La Croix-de-Maufras, beneath the motionless moon, 
abruptly appeared the vision of the atrociously melancholy 
house set 1 down aslant in its abandonment and distress, with 
its shutters everlastingly closed. And without understanding 
why, Jacques, this time again, and more vigorously than on 
previous occasions, felt a tightening at the heart as if he 
was passing before his doom. 

But immediately afterwards, his eyes carried another image 
away. Near the house of the Misards, against the gate at 
the level crossing, stood Flore. He now saw her at this spot 
at each of his journeys, awaiting, on the watch for him. She 
did not move, she simply turned her head so as to be able 
to get a longer view of him in the flash that bore him away. 
Her tall silhouette stood out in black, against the white light, 
her golden locks alone being illumined by the pale gold of 
the celestial body. 

And Jacques, having urged on La Lison, to make it scale 
the ascent at Motteville, allowed the engine breathing time 
across the plateau of Bolbec. But he finally sent it on again, 
from Saint-Romain to Harfleur, down the longest incline on 



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The Monomaniac 167 

the line, a matter of three leagues, which the engines devour 
at* the gallop of mad cattle sniffing the stable. And he 
was broken down with fatigue at Havre, when, beneath the 
iron marquee, full of the uproar and smoke at the arrival, 
SeVerine, before going up to her rooms, ran to say to him, 
in her gay and tender manner: 

" Thanks. We may see one another to-morrow." 



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CHAPTER VI 

A MONTH passed, and great tranquillity again pervaded 
the lodging occupied by the Roubauds, on the first 
floor of the railway station, over the waiting-rooms. With 
them, with their neighbours in the corridor, with all this 
little crowd of public servants subjected to an existence 
regulated by the clock, life had resumed its monotony. And 
it seemed as if nothing violent or abnormal had taken place. 

The noisy and scandalous Grandmorin case was quietly 
being forgotten, was about to be shelved, owing to the 
apparent inability of the authorities to discover the criminal. 
After Cabuche had been locked up a fortnight, the examining- 
magistrate, Denizet, had ordered his discharge, on the ground 
that there was not sufficient evidence against him. And a 
romantic fable was now being arranged by the police : that 
of an unknown murderer on whom it was impossible to lay 
hands, a criminal adventurer, who was everywhere at the 
same time, who was accused of all the murders, and who 
vanished in smoke, at the mere sight of the officers. 

It was now only at long intervals that a few jokes about 
this fabulous murderer were revived in the opposition press, 
which became intensely excited as the general elections drew 
near. The pressure of the government, the violence of the 
prefects, every day furnished other subjects for indignant 
articles ; and the newspapers were so busy with these matters 
that they gave no further attention to the case. It had ceased 
to interest the public, who no longer even spoke on the 
subject. 

168 



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The Monomaniac 169 

What had completed the tranquillity of the Roubauds was 
the happy way in which the other difficulty, connected with 
the will of President Grandmorin, had been smoothed over. 

On the advice of Madame Bonnehon, the Lachesnayes 
had at last consented to accept the will, partly because they 
did not wish to revive the scandal, and also because they 
were very uncertain as to the result of an action. And the 
Roubauds, placed in possession of their legacy, had for the 
past week been the owners of La Croix-de-Maufras, house 
and garden, estimated to be worth about 40,000 frcs., a matter 
of ;£ 1,600. 

They had immediately decided on selling the place, which 
haunted them like a nightmare, and on selling it in a lump, 
with the furniture, just as it stood, without repairing it, and 
without even sweeping out the dust. But, as it would not 
have fetched anything like its value at an auction, there being 
few purchasers who would consent to retire to such solitude, 
they had resolved to await an amateur, and had nailed up 
an immense board on the front of the house, setting forth 
that it was for sale, which could easily be read by persons 
in the frequent trains that passed. 

This notice in great letters, this desolation to be disposed 
of, added to the sadness of the closed shutters, and of the 
garden invaded with briars. Roubaud, having absolutely 
refused to go there, even to take a look round, and make 
certain necessary arrangements, SeVerine had paid a visit to 
the house one afternoon, and had left the keys with the 
Misards, telling them to show any possible purchasers who 
might make inquiries, over the property. Possession could 
be arranged in a couple of hours, for there was even linen 
in the cupboards. 

And from that moment, there being nothing further to 
trouble the Roubauds, they passed each day in blissful 
expectation of the morrow. The house would end by being 
sold, they would invest the money, and everything would 



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170 The Monomaniac 

go on very well. Besides, they forgot all about it, living 
as if they were never going to quit the three rooms they 
occupied : the dining-room, with the door opening on the 
corridor; the bedroom, fairly large, on the right; the small, 
stuffy kitchen on the left. 

Even the roofing over the platforms, before their windows, 
that zinc slope shutting out the view like the wall of a prison, 
instead of exasperating them, as formerly, seemed to bring 
calm, increasing that sensation of infinite repose, of re- 
comforting peace, wherein they felt secure. In any case, the 
neighbours could not see them, there were no prying eyes 
always in front of them peering into their home ; and, spring 
having set in, they now only complained of the stifling 
heat, of the blinding reflex from the zinc, fired by the first 
rays of the sun. 

After that frightful shock, which for two months had caused 
them to live in a constant tremble, they enjoyed this reaction 
of absorbing insensibility, in perfect bliss. They only desired 
never to move again, happy to be simply alive, without 
trembling and without suffering. 

Never had Roubaud been so exact and conscientious. 
During the week of day duty, he was on the platform at five 
in the morning. He did not go up to breakfast until ten, 
and came down again an hour later, remaining there until 
five in the evening — eleven hours full of work. During the 
week of night duty, he had not even the brief rest afforded by 
a meal at home, for he supped in his office. He bore this 
hard servitude with a sort of satisfaction, seeming to take 
pleasure in it, entering into details, wishing to see to every- 
thing, to do everything, as if he found oblivion in fatigue; 
the return of a well-balanced, normal life. 

S^verine, for her part, almost always alone, a widow one 
week out of two, and who during the other week, only saw 
her husband at luncheon and dinner-time, displayed all 
the energy of a good housewife. She had been in the habit 



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The Monomaniac 171 

of sitting down to embroidery, detesting to put her hand to 
household work, which an old woman, called Mother Simon, 
came to do, from nine to twelve. But since she had recovered 
tranquillity at home, and felt certain of remaining there, she 
had been occupied with ideas of cleaning and arranging 
things ; and she now only seated herself, after rummaging 
everywhere in the apartment. Both slept soundly. In their 
rare conversations at meal-times, as on the nights which 
they passed together, they never once alluded to the case, 
considering it at an end, and buried. 

For Severine, particularly, life once more became extremely 
pleasant. Her idleness returned. Again she abandoned the 
housework to Mother Simon, like a young lady brought up 
for no greater exertion than fine needlework. She had com- 
menced an interminable task, consisting in embroidering an 
entire bedcover, which threatened to occupy her to the end 
of her days. She rose rather late, delighted to remain alone 
in bed, rocked by the trains leaving and coming in, which 
told her how the hours fled, as exactly as if her eyes had 
been on a clock. 

In the early days of her married life, these violent sounds 
in the station — the whistling, the shocks of turn-tables, the 
rolls of thunder, the abrupt oscillations, like earthquakes, 
which made both her and the furniture totter — had driven her 
half crazy. Then, by degrees, she had become accustomed 
to them ; the sonorous and vibrating railway station formed 
part of her existence; and, now, she liked it, finding tran- 
quillity in all this bustle and uproar. 

Until lunch-time, she went from one room to another, 
talking to the charwoman, with her hands idle. Then, she 
passed the long afternoons, seated before the dining-room 
window, with her work generally on her lap, delighted at 
doing nothing. During the weeks when her husband came 
up at daylight, to go to bed, she heard him snoring until 
dark ; and these had become her good weeks — those during 



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172 The Monomaniac 

which she lived as formerly, before her marriage, having the 
whole bed to herself, enjoying her time after rising, as she 
thought proper, with the entire day before her, to do as 
she liked. 

She rarely went out. All she could see of Havre, was the 
smoke of the neighbouring factories, whose great turbillions 
of black stained the sky above the zinc roof, which shut out 
the view at a few yards from her eyes. 

The city was there, behind this perpetual wall ; she always 
felt its presence, and her annoyance at being unable to see 
it had, in the end, subsided. Five or six pots of wallflowers 
and verbenas, which she cultivated in the gutter, gave her a 
small garden to enliven her solitude. At times she spoke 
of herself as of a recluse in the depths of a wood. Roubaud, 
in his moments of idleness, would get out of the window, 
then, passing to the end of the gutter, would ascend 
the zinc slope, seating himself on the top of the gable, 
overlooking the Cours Napoleon. There he smoked his 
pipe, in the open air, towering above the city that lay 
spread out at his feet, above the^docks planted with tall 
masts, and the pale green sea, expanding as far as the eye 
could roam. 

It seemed that the same somnolence had gained the other 
households, near the Roubauds. This corridor, where gener- 
ally whistled such a terrible gale of gossip, was also wrapt 
in slumber. When Philomene paid a visit to Madame Lebleu, 
barely a slight murmur could be heard. Both of them, 
surprised at the turn matters had taken, now spoke of the 
assistant station-master with disdainful commiseration, con- 
vinced that his wife, to keep him in his post, had been up 
to her games at Paris. 

He was now a man with a slur upon him, who would 
never free himself of certain suspicions. And, as the wife 
of the cashier felt convinced that, henceforth, her neighbours 
would not have the power to take her lodging from her, 



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The Monomaniac 173 

she simply treated them with contempt, stiffening herself 
when she passed them, and neglecting to bow. This 
behaviour even estranged Philomene, who called on her 
less and less frequently. She considered her too proud, 
and no longer found amusement in her company. 

Madame Lebleu, in order to have something to occupy 
her, continued to watch the intrigue between Mademoiselle 
Guichon and the station-master, M. Dabadie, but without 
ever surprising them. The almost imperceptible brush of 
his felt slippers along the corridor, could alone be heard. 
Everything having thus settled down, a month of supreme 
peacefulness ensued, similar to the great calm that follows 
great catastrophes. 

But one painful, anxious matter remained, to occasionally 
worry the Roubauds. There was a particular part of the 
parquetry in the dining-room, whereon their eyes never 
chanced to rest, without an uncomfortable feeling again 
troubling them. This spot was to the left of the window. 
There they had taken up and put in place again, a piece 
of the pattern in the oak flooring, to hide beneath it the 
watch, and the 10,000 frcs. (^400) which they had taken 
from the body of Grandmorin, as well as a purse containing 
about 300 frcs. G£i2) in gold. Roubaud had only drawn 
the watch and money from the pockets of the victim, to 
convey the impression that the motive of the crime was 
robbery. 

He was not a thief. He would sooner die of hunger 
within arms' reach of the treasure, as he said, than profit by 
a centime, or sell the watch. The money of this old man, 
to whom he had dealt out justice — money, stained with 
infamy and blood ? No ! no i it was not clean enough for 
an honest man to finger. And he did not even give a 
thought to the house at La Croix-de-Maufras, which he had 
accepted as a present. The act of plundering the victim, 
of carrying off those notes in the abomination of murder, 



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4 > 



174 The Monomaniac 

alone revolted him and aroused his conscience to the pitch 
of making him start back in fright at the idea of touching 
the ill-gotten gain. 

Nevertheless, he had not had the courage to burn the 
notes; and then, one night, to go and cast watch and 
purse in the sea. If simple prudence urged him to act 
thus, inexorable instinct protested against the destruction. 
Unconsciously, he felt respect for such a large sum of money, 
and he could never have made up his mind to annihilate 
it. At the commencement, on the first night, he had thrust 
it under his pillow, considering no other place sufficiently 
secure. On the following days, he had exerted his ingenuity 
to discover hiding-places, changing them each morning, 
agitated at the least sound, in fear of the police arriving 
with a search-warrant. Never had he displayed so much 
imagination. 

At last, at the end of artifices, weary of trembling, he 
one day had the coolness to take the money and watch, 
hidden the previous evening under the pjjguetry ; and, now, 
for nothing in the world would he put his hand there. It 
was like a darnel house, a hole pregnant with terror and 
death, where spectres awaited him. He even avoided, when 
moving about the room, to place his feet on that part of 
the floor. The idea of doing so, caused him an unpleasant 
sensation, made him fancy he would receive a slight shock 
in the legs. 

When SeVerine sat down before the window in the afternoon, 
she would draw back her chair so as not to be exactly 
over this skeleton which they kept under their floor. They 
never spoke of the matter to one another, endeavouring to 
think they would get accustomed to it; and, at length, 
they became irritable at remembering' the thing again, at 
feeling it there at every hour, more and more importunate, 
beneath the soles of their boots. And this uncomfortable 
sensation was all the more singular, as they in no way 



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The Monomaniac 175 

suffered from the knife, the beautiful new knife purchased 
by the wife, and which the husband had stuck into the 
throat of the sweetheart. It had been simply washed, and 
lay in a drawer. Sometimes Mother Simon used it to cut 
the bread. 

Amidst the peacefulness in which they were living, Roubaud 
had just introduced another cause of trouble, which was slowly 
gaining ground, by forcing Jacques to visit them. The 
duties of the engine-driver brought him three times a week 
to Havre. On Monday, from 10.35 m tne morning, to 6.20 at 
night. On Thursday and Saturday, from 11.5 at night, to 
6.40 in the morning. And on the first Monday after the 
journey Severine had made to Paris, the assistant station- 
master displayed effusive affability towards him. 

"Come, comrade," said he, "you cannot refuse to have 
a snack with us. The deuce ! you were very obliging to my 
wife, and I owe you some thanks ! " 

Twice in a month, Jacques had thus accepted an invitation 
to lunch. It seemed that Roubaud, inconvenienced at the 
long silence that now prevailed when he met his wife at 
table, felt a relief as soon as he could place a guest be- 
tween them. He at once recalled amusing anecdotes, chatted 
and joked. 

" Come as often as possible," said he ; " you can see you 
are not in the way." 

One Thursday night, as Jacques, who had washed himself, 
was thinking of going off to bed, he met the assistant station- 
master strolling round the depot; and, notwithstanding the 
late hour, the latter, disinclined to walk back alone, persuaded 
the young man to accompany him to the station. Once 
there he insisted on taking him to his rooms. Severine 
was still up, and reading. They drank a glass or two to- 
gether, and played cards until after midnight. 

Henceforth the luncheons on Monday, and the little 
evening parties on Thursday and Saturday, became a habit. 



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176 The Monomaniac 

It was Roubaud, himself, when the comrade once missed a day, 
who kept a look-out for him, and brought him home, reproach- 
ing him with his neglect. But he became more and more 
gloomy, and it was only in the company of his new friend 
that he was really in good spirits. This man, who had first 
of all so cruelly alarmed him, whom he should now have 
held in execration as the witness — the living vision of things 
he wished to forget — had, on the contrary, become necessary 
to him, perhaps for the simple reason that he knew what had 
occurred, and had not spoken. This position took the form 
of a powerful bond, a sort of complicity between them. 
The assistant station-master had often looked at the other 
in a knowing way, pressing his hand with a sudden burst 
of feeling, and with a violence that surpassed the simple 
expression of good fellowship. 

But it was particularly at home that Jacques became a 
source of diversion. There, Severine also welcomed him with 
gaiety, uttering an exclamation as soon as he entered, like 
a woman bestirred by a thrill of pleasure. She put aside 
everything — her embroidery, her book, escaping from the 
gloomy somnolence, in which she passed her time, in a torrent 
of words and laughter. 

" Ah ! how nice of you to have come ! I heard the express, 
and thought of you," she would say. 

When he lunched there, it was a fete. She had already 
learnt his tastes, and went out herself for fresh eggs. And 
she did this in a very nice way, like a good housewife who 
welcomes the friend of the family, without giving him any 
cause to attribute her actions to aught else than a desire to 
be agreeable, and divert herself. 

" Come again on Monday, you know," said she. " We shall 
have cream." 

Only, when at the end of the month, he had made himself 
at home there, the separation between the Roubauds became 
more pronounced. Jacques certainly assisted to bring about 



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The Monomaniac 177 

this informal divorce by his presence, which drew them 
from the gloom into which they had fallen. He delivered 
both of them. 

Roubaud had no remorse. He had only .been afraid of the 
consequences, before the case was shelved, and his greatest 
anxiety had been the dread of losing his place. At present, 
he felt no regret. Perhaps, though, had he to do the 
business over again, he would not make his wife take a part 
in it. Women lose their spirit at once. His wife was 
escaping from him, because he had placed on her shoulders, 
a load too heavy to bear. He would have remained the 
master, had he not descended with her to the terrifying and 
quarrelsome comradeship of crime. 

But this was how things were, and it became imperative to 
put up with them ; the more so, as he had to make a regular 
effort, to place himself again in the same frame of mind, as 
when, after the confession, he had considered the murder 
necessary to his existence. It seemed to him, at that time, 
that if he had not killed this man, he would not have been 
able to live. At present, his jealous flame having died out, 
himself freed from the intolerable burn,- assailed by a feeling 
of torpidity, as if the blood of his heart had become thickened 
by all the blood he had spilt, the necessity for the murder 
did not appear to him so evident. 

He had come to the pass of inquiring of himself, whether 
killing was really worth the trouble. This was not repent- 
ance ; it was at most a disillusion, the idea that people often 
do things they would not own to, in order to become happy, 
without being any the more so. He, usually so talkative, fell 
into prolonged spells of silence, into confused reflections, 
from which he issued more gloomy than before. Every day, 
now, to avoid remaining face to face with his wife, after the 
meals, he went on the roof and seated himself on the gable. 
There, in the breeze from the offing, soothing himself in 
vague dreams, he smoked his pipe, gazing beyond the city 

12 



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178 The Monomaniac 

at the steamers disappearing on the horizon, bound to 
distant seas. 

But one evening, Roubaud felt a revival of that savage 
jealousy of former times. He had been to find Jacques at 
the depot, and was bringing him up to his rooms to take a 
dram, when he met Henri Dauvergne, the headguard, coming 
down the staircase. The latter appeared confused, and ex- 
plained that he had been to see Madame Roubaud on an 
errand confided to him by his sisters. The truth was that 
for some time past, he had been running after S^verine, to 
make love to her. 

The assistant station-master violently addressed his wife at 
the door. 

" What did that fellow come up again about ? " he roughly 
inquired. " You know that he plagues me ! " 

"But, my dear, it was for a pattern of embroidery," she 
answered. 

"Embroidery, indeed!" he rejoined. "Til give him 
embroidery ! Do you think I'm such a fool as not to under- 
stand what he comes here for ? And as to you, take care ! " 

He advanced towards her, his fists clenched, and she 
stepped back, white as a sheet, astonished at the violence of 
this anger, in the state of calm indifference for one another, 
in which they lived. But he was already recovering his self- 
possession, and, addressing his companion, he said : 

" Whoever heard of such a thing ? Fellows who tumble 
into your home with the idea that your wife will immediately 
fall into their arms, and that the husband, very much flattered, 
will shut his eyes ! It makes my blood boil. Look here, 
if such a thing did happen, I would strangle my wife, oh ! 
on the spot ! And this young gentleman had better not 
show his face here again, or I'll settle his business for him. 
Isn't it disgusting?" 

Jacques, who felt very uncomfortable at the scene, hardly 
knew how to look. Was this exaggerated anger intended for 



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The Monomaniac 179 

him? Was the husband giving him a warning? He felt 
more at ease when the latter gaily resumed: 

"As to you, I know you would very soon fling him out 
at the door. No matter. Se*verine, bring us something to 
drink out of. Jacques, touch glasses with us." 

He patted Jacques on the shoulder, and S£verine, who had 
also recovered, smiled at the two men. Then they all drank 
together, and passed a very pleasant hour. 

It was thus that Roubaud brought his wife and comrade 
together, with an air of good friendship, and without seeming 
to think of the possible consequences. This outburst of 
jealousy became the very cause of a closer intimacy, and of a 
great deal of secret tenderness, strengthened by outpourings of 
the heart, between Jacques and SeVerine. For, having seen 
her again two days after this scene, he expressed his pity that 
she should have been the object of such brutal treatment; 
while she, with eyes bathed in tears, confessed, with an 
involuntary overflow of grief, what little happiness she met 
with in her home. 

From that moment, they had found a subject of conversation 
for themselves alone, a complicity of friendship wherein they 
ended by understanding one another at a sign. At each visit, 
he questioned her with his eyes, to ascertain if she had met 
with any fresh cause for sadness. She answered in the same 
way, by a simple motion of the eyelids. Moreover, their 
hands sought each other behind the back of the husband. 
Becoming bolder, they corresponded by long pressures, 
relating, at the tips of their warm fingers, the increasing 
interest the one took in the smallest incidents connected 
with the existence of the other. 

Rarely did they have the good fortune to meet for a 
minute, in the absence of Roubaud. They always found 
him there, between them, in that melancholy dining-room; 
and they did nothing to escape him, never having had the 
thought to make an appointment at some distant corner of 



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180 The Monomaniac 

the station. Up to then, it was a matter of real affection 
between them; they were led along by keen sympathy, and 
Roubaud caused them but slight inconvenience, as a glance, 
a pressure of the hand, sufficed for them to comprehend 
one another. 

The first time Jacques whispered in the ear of S£verine, 
that he would wait for her on the following Thursday at 
midnight, behind the depot, she revolted, and violently 
withdrew her hand. It was her week of liberty, the week 
when her husband was engaged on night duty. But she 
was very much troubled at the thought of leaving her 
home, to go and meet this young man so far away, in 
the darkness of the station premises. Never had she felt 
so confused. It resembled the fright of innocent maids 
with throbbing hearts. She did not give way at once. He 
had to beg and pray of her for more than a fortnight, before 
she consented, notwithstanding her own burning desire to 
take this nocturnal walk. 

It was at the commencement of June The evenings 
became intensely hot, and were but slightly refreshed by 
the sea breeze. Jacques had already waited for her three 
times, always in the hope that she would join him, not- 
withstanding her refusal. On this particular night, she had 
again said no. The sky was without a moon, and cloudy. 
Not a star shone through the dense haze that obscured 
everything. As he stood watching in the dark, he perceived 
her coming along at last, attired in black, and with silent' 
tread. It was so sombre that she would have brushed 
against him without recognising him, had he not caught her 
in his arms and given her a kiss. She uttered a little cry, 
quivering. Then, laughingly, she left her lips on his. But 
that was all; she would never consent to sit down in one 
of the sheds surrounding them. They walked about, and 
chatted in low tones, pressing one to the other. 

Just there, was a vast open space, occupied by the depot 



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The Monomaniac " 181 

and other buildings, all the land that is shut in by the Rue 
Verte and the Rue Frangois-Mazeline, both of which cut 
the line at level crossings : a sort of immense piece of 
waste ground, encumbered with shunting lines, reservoirs, 
water-cranes, buildings of all sorts — the two great engine- 
houses, the cottage of the Sauvagnats, surrounded by a tiny 
kitchen-garden, the workshops, the block where the drivers 
and firemen slept. And nothing was more easy than to 
escape observation, to lose oneself, as in the thick of a wood, 
among those deserted lanes with their inextricable maze 
of turnings. For an hour, they enjoyed delicious solitude, 
relieving their hearts in friendly words stored-up there so long. 
For she would only consent to speak of affection. She had 
told him, at once, that she would never be his, that it would 
be too wicked to tarnish this pure friendship, of which she felt 
so proud, being jealous of her own self-esteem. Then he 
accompanied her to the Rue Verte, where their lips joined 
in a long kiss, and she returned home. 

At that same hour, in the office of the assistant station- 
masters, Roubaud began to doze in an old leather armchair, 
which he quitted twenty times in the course of the night, with 
aching limbs. Up to nine o'clock, he had to be present at 
the arrival and departure of the night trains. The tidal train 
engaged his particular attention : there were the manoeuvres, 
the coupling, the way-bills to be closely scrutinised. Then, 
when the Paris express had arrived and had been shunted, he 
supped alone in the office at a corner of the table, off a slice 
of cold meat between a couple of pieces of bread, which 
he had brought down from his lodging. The last arrival, 
a slow train from Rouen, steamed in at half past twelve. 
The platforms then became quite silent. Only a few lamps 
remained alight, and the entire station lay at rest, in this 
quivering semi-obscurity. 

Of all the staff there remained but a couple of foremen, 
and four or five porters, under the orders of the assistant 



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1 82 The Monomaniac 

station-master. They slept like tops on the sloping plank 
platform in the quarters allotted to them; while Roubaud, 
obliged to rouse them at the least warning, could only doze 
with his ears open. Lest he should succumb to fatigue, 
towards daybreak, he set his alarum at five o'clock, at which 
hour he had to be on his feet, to be present at the arrival 
of the Paris train. But, occasionally, especially recently, he 
suffered from insomnia, and turned about in his armchair 
without being able to close his eyes. Then he would get up 
and go out, take a look round, walk as far as the box of 
the pointsman, where he chatted an instant. And the vast 
black sky, the sovereign peacefulness of the night, ultimately 
calmed his fever. 

In consequence of a struggle with marauders, he had been 
supplied with a revolver, which he carried loaded in his 
pocket. And he often walked about in this way, up to day- 
break, stopping as soon as he perceived anything moving in 
the darkness, resuming his walk with a sort of vague feeling of 
regret at not having had to make use of his weapon. He. felt 
relieved when the sky whitened, and drew the great pale 
phantom of the station from darkness. Now that day broke 
as early as three o'clock he went in, and, throwing himself 
into his armchair, slept like a dormouse, until his alarum 
brought him, with a start, to his feet. 

Severine met Jacques once a fortnight, on Thursday and 
Saturday. And, one night, when she had told him about the 
revolver, they both felt considerably alarmed. As a matter 
of fact, Roubaud never went so far as the depot. But this 
circumstance did not divest their walks of an aspect of danger, 
which added to their charm. Moreover, they had found a 
delightful nook, behind the cottage of the Sauvagnats, a sort 
of alley, between some enormous heaps of coal, which formed 
the only street in a strange town of great, square, black- 
marble palaces. There, they were completely hidden. 

This girl, who had killed, was his ideal. His cure seemed 



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The Monomaniac 183 

to him more certain every day, because he had fondled 
her, his lips upon her lips, absorbing her very soul, without 
that furious envy having been aroused, to master her by 
slaughtering her. 

And so these happy meetings followed one upon another. 
The two sweethearts never wearied for a moment of seeking 
one another, of strolling together in the obscurity, between 
the great heaps of coal that deepened the darkness around 
them. 

One night in July, Jacques, to reach Havre at 11.5, the 
fixed time, had to urge on La Lison, as if the stifling heat 
had made the engine idle. From Rouen, a storm accompanied 
him on the left, following the valley of the Seine, with great 
brilliant flashes; and, from time to time, he turned round 
anxiously, for SeVerine was to meet him that night. He 
feared that if this storm burst too soon, it would prevent her 
going out. And so, when he had succeeded in attaining the 
station before the rain, he felt impatient with the passengers, 
who seemed as if they would never finish leaving the 
carriages. 

Roubaud was on the platform, glued there for the night. 

" The deuce ! " said he, laughing. " What a hurry you're 
in to get off to bed ! Pleasant dreams ! " 

" Thanks," answered Jacques. 

After driving back the train, he whistled, and made 
his way to the depot. The flaps of the immense door were 
open. La Lison penetrated the engine-house, a sort of gallery 
with double lines, about sixty yards long, and built to accom- 
modate six locomotives. Within, it was very dark. Four gas- 
burners did not suffice to dispel the obscurity, which they 
seemed to deepen into four great moving shadows. But, at 
moments, the vivid flashes of lightning, set the glazed roof 
and the tall windows to right and left, ablaze ; and one then 
distinguished, as in a flame of fire, the cracked walls, the 
timber black with smoke, all the tumble-down wretchedness 



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184 The Monomaniac 

of this out-of-date building. Two locomotives were already 
there, cold and slumbering. 

Pecqueux at once began to put out the fire. He violently 
raked it, and, the live coal escaping from the cinder-box, fell 
into the pit below. 

" Fm dying of hunger," said he. " I shall go and have a 
mouthful. Are you coming?" 

Jacques did not reply. In spite of his hurry, he did not 
wish to leave La Lison before the lights had been extinguished, 
and the boiler emptied. This was a scruple, the habit of a 
good driver, wherefrom he never departed. When he had time, 
he remained there until he had examined and wiped every- 
thing, with all the care that is taken to groom a favourite nag. 

It was only when the water ran gurgling into the pit, that 
he exclaimed : 

" Hurry on, hurry on ! " 

A formidable flash of lightning interrupted him. This time, 
the tall windows stood out so distinctly against the flaming 
sky, that the very numerous broken panes of glass could have 
been counted. To the left, a thin sheet of iron, which had 
remained fixed in one of the vices serving for the repairs, 
resounded with the prolonged vibration of a bell. All the 
antiquated timber-work of the roof had cracked. 

" The devil ! " simply said the fireman. 

The driver made a gesture of despair. This put an end 
to his appointment, and the more so, as a perfect deluge was 
now pouring down on the engine-house. The violence of the 
rain threatened to break the glazed roof. Up there some 
of the panes of glass must also have been broken, for big 
raindrops were falling on La Lison in clusters. A violent 
wind entered by the doors which had been left open, and 
anyone might have fancied that the body of the old structure 
was about to be swept away. 

Pecqueux was getting to the end of his work on the 
locomotive. 



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The Monomaniac 185 

" There ! n said he ; " we shall be able to see better to- 
morrow. I have no need to tidy it up any more to-night." 

And, returning to his former idea, he added : 

"I must get something to eat. It's raining too hard to 
go and stick oneself on one's mattress." 

The canteen, indeed, was at hand, against the depot itself; 
while the company had been obliged to rent a house — Rue 
Francois-Mazeline — where beds had been provided for the 
drivers and firemen who passed the night at Havre. In such 
a deluge, they would have got drenched to the skin before 
arriving there. 

Jacques had to make up his mind to follow Pecqueux, who 
had taken the small basket belonging to his chief, to save 
him the trouble of carrying it. He knew that this basket 
still contained two slices of cold veal, some bread, and a 
bottle of wine that had hardly been touched \ and it was 
simply this knowledge that made him feel hungry. The rain 
increased. Another clap of thunder had just shaken the 
engine-house. When the two men went away on the left, 
by the small door leading to the canteen, La Lison was 
already becoming cold. The engine slumbered, abandoned, 
in the obscurity, lit up by the vivid flashes of lightning, with 
the heavy drops of rain falling on its flanks. Hard by, a 
water-crane, imperfectly turned off, continued dripping, and 
formed a pool that ran between the wheels of the locomotive 
into the pit. 

But Jacques wished to wash before entering the canteen. 
Warm water and buckets were always to be found in an 
adjoining room. Drawing a piece of soap from his basket, 
he removed the dirt from his travel-begrimed hands and 
face ; and, as he had taken the precaution to bring a second 
lot of clothes with him, in accordance with the advice given 
to the drivers, he was able to change his garments from head 
to foot, as he was accustomed to do, for that matter, each 
night on his arrival at Havre, when he had an appointment with 



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1 86 The Monomaniac 

S£verine. Pecqueux was already waiting in the canteen, 
having only just dipped the tip of his nose, and the ends 
of his fingers, in the water. 

This canteen simply consisted of a small, bare room painted 
yellow, where there was nothing but a stove to warm the 
food, and a table fixed in the ground, and covered with a 
sheet of zinc, by way of tablecloth. A couple of forms 
completed the furniture. The men had to bring their own 
victuals, and eat off a piece of paper with the points of 
their knives. Light entered the room through a large window. 

" What a vile downpour ! " exclaimed Jacques, planting 
himself before the panes of glass. 

Pecqueux had settled himself on a form at the table. 

" You are not going to eat then ? " he inquired. 

" No, mate. Finish my bread and meat, if you care for 
it. I've no appetite." 

The other, without more ado, fell upon the veal, and emptied 
the bottle. He frequently met with similar luck, for his chief 
was a poor eater ; and he loved him the better, in his canine- 
like fidelity, for all the crumbs picked up in this way, behind 
him. With his mouth full, he resumed after a silence : 

" The rain ! What do we care about that, so long as 
we're under cover? Only, if it continues, I shall cut you, 
and be off next door." 

He began laughing, for he made no secret of his mode 
of life; and, no doubt, had told the driver all about his 
intrigue with Philomfene Sauvagnat. 

Jacques muttered an oath, as he perceived the deluge of 
rain increase in violence, after showing signs of abating. 

Pecqueux, with the last mouthful of meat at the end of his 
knife, again gave a good-humoured laugh. 

"You must have something to do then, to-night?" said 
he. "Well, they can't reproach us two with wearing out 
the mattresses, over there, in the Rue Frangois-Mazeline." 

Jacques quickly left the window. 



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The Monomaniac 187 

"Why?" he inquired. 

"Well, you're just like me. Since the spring, you never 
turn in till two or three o'clock in the morning," answered 
the other. 

He seemed to know something. Perhaps he had caught 
them together. In each room the bedsteads were in 
couples : fireman and driver. The railway authorities sought 
to bind these men to one another as firmly as possible, on 
account of their work, which necessitated such a close 
understanding. And so, Jacques was not astonished that 
the fireman should have noticed the late hours he kept, 
particularly as he had formerly been so regular. 

"I suffer from headache," remarked the driver, for want 
of something better to say; "and it does me good to walk 
out at night-time." 

But the fireman was already excusing himself. 

" Oh ! you know," he broke in, " you are free to do as you 
please. What I said, was only by way of a joke. And if 
you should meet with any trouble one of these days, don't 
mind coming to me, because I'm ready to do anything 
you like." 

Without explaining his meaning more clearly, Pecqueux 
grasped him by the hand, pressing it fit to crush it, so as to 
make him understand that he was at his service, body and soul. 
Then, crumpling up the greasy paper which the meat had 
been in, he threw it away, and placed the empty bottle in 
the basket, performing this little service like a careful servant 
accustomed to the broom and sponge. And, as the rain 
obstinately continued, although the thunder had ceased, he 
exclaimed : 

" Well, I'm off, and leave you to your own business ! " 

" Oh I " said Jacques, " as there are no signs of it clearing 
up, I shall go and lie down on a camp bedstead!" 

Beside the depot was a room with mattresses protected by 
canvas slips, where the men rested in their clothes when they 



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1 88 The Monomaniac 

had only to wait three or four hours at Havre. So, as 
soon as Jacques saw the fireman disappear in the downpour 
of rain, he risked it in his turn, and ran to the drivers' 
quarters. But he did not lie down. He stood on the 
threshold of the wide-open door, stifled by the oppressive 
heat within, where another driver, stretched on his back, was 
snoring with his mouth wide open. 

A few more minutes passed, and Jacques could not make 
up his mind to abandon all hope. In his exasperation against 
this disgusting rain, he felt an increasing wild desire to 
gain, in spite of all, the place where he and SeVerine were to 
meet ; so as at least to have the pleasure of being there 
himself, even if he no longer expected to find his sweetheart. 
With spasmodic precipitation, he at last dashed through the 
rain. He reached their favourite corner, and followed the dark 
alley formed by the heaps of coal. And, as the sharp rain 
whipped his face and blinded him, he went as far as the tool- 
house, where he and S^verine had already once found shelter. 
He seemed to think he would be less lonely there. 

Jacques was entering the dense obscurity of this retreat 
when a couple of slender arms entwined him, and a pair of 
warm lips rested on his own. Severine was there. 
" Goodness gracious ! is it you ? " he exclaimed. 
" Yes," she answered ; " I saw the storm approaching, 
and ran here before the rain came down. What a time you 
have been!" 

"You expected me then?" 

" Oh ! yes. I waited, waited " 

They had seated themselves on a pile of empty sacks, 
listening to the pouring rain beating, with increased violence, 
on the roof. The last train from Paris, which was just 
coming in, passed by, roaring, whistling, rocking the ground. 
All at once Jacques rose. On seating himself a few moments 
before, he had by chance found the handle of a hammer 
beneath his hand, and he was now deluged with intense joy. 



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The Monomaniac 189 

It was all over then! He had not grasped that hammer 
and smashed the skull of his sweetheart. She was his own, 
without a battle, without that instinctive craving to fling her 
lifeless on her back, like a prey torn from others. 

He no longer thirsted to avenge those very ancient offences, 
whose exact details escaped his memory, that rancour stored up 
from male to male since the first deceptions in the depths 
of caverns. No. This girl had cured him, because he saw 
she was different from the others, violent in her weakness, 
reeking with human gore, which encircled her in a sort of 
cuirass of horror. She predominated over him, he, who had 
never dared do as she had done. 

SeVerine was also lost in reflections. Her heart had been 
pining after love — absolute, constant love ; and it was frightful 
cruelty that these recent events should have cast her, haggard 
and anxious, into such abominations. Fate had dragged her 
in mire and blood with such violence that her beautiful blue 
eyes, though still naive, had preserved a look of terror-stricken 
expansion beneath her tragic crest of raven hair. 

" Oh ! my darling, carry me off, keep me with you ! " she 
exclaimed; "your desires shall be mine." 

"No, no, my treasure," replied Jacques, who had again 
seated himself beside her, "you are mistress. I am only 
here to love and obey you." 

The hours passed. The rain had ceased some time. The 
station was plunged in absolute silence, troubled only by a 
distant and indistinct moan rising from the sea. Suddenly 
a pistol-shot brought them to their feet with a start. Day 
was about to break. A pale spot whitened the sky above 
the mouth of the Seine. What could be the meaning of that 
shot ? Their imprudence, this folly of remaining together so 
late, made them, in swift imagination, picture to themselves 
the husband pursuing them with a revolver. 

" Don't venture out ! " exclaimed Jacques. "Wait ! Ill go 
and see ! " 



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190 The Monomaniac 

Jacques had prudently advanced to the door, and there, 
in the dense darkness that still prevailed, he could hear men 
advancing at the double. He recognised the voice of 
Roubaud, urging forward the watchmen, shouting to them 
that the thieves were three in number, that he had distinctly 
seen them stealing coal. For some weeks not a night 
had passed without hallucinations of the same kind about 
imaginary brigands. On this occasion, he had fired haphazard 
into the gloom. 

" Quick ! quick ! " exclaimed the young man ; " let us be 
off! They will come and search this place. Run as fast 
as you can!" 

She fell into his arms. They stifled one another, lips 
to lips. Then Severine tripped lightly through the depot, 
protected by the high wall, while he quietly disappeared 
among the heaps of coal. And it was only just time, for 
Roubaud, as he had foreseen, insisted on searching the tool- 
house. He vowed the thieves must be there. The lanterns 
of the watchmen danced on a level with the ground. There 
were words, and in the end they all turned back towards 
the station, irritated at this fruitless chase; while Jacques, 
with his mind at ease, at last determined to make his way 
to the Rue Frangois-Mazeline and go to bed. 

The meetings between him and Severine continued through- 
out the summer. Nor were they interrupted when the cold 
weather came at the commencement of October. She arrived 
wrapped in an ample cloak, and, to be screened from the 
frigid air outside, they barricaded themselves in the tool-house 
by means of an iron bar that they had found there. In this 
little retreat they were at home. The. November hurricanes 
could roar, and tear the slates from the roofs, without in- 
conveniencing them. 

Jacques no longer had any doubt that he was cured of his 
frightful hereditary complaint, for since he had known Severine 
he had never been troubled by thoughts of murder. Occa- 



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The Monomaniac 191 

sionally he suddenly remembered what she had done — that 
assassination, avowed by her eyes alone, on the bench in 
the Batignolles Square; but he had no inclination to learn 
the details. She, on the contrary, seemed more and more 
tormented by the desire to reveal everything. At times he 
felt her bursting with her secret; and, in anxiety, he would 
at once close her mouth with a kiss, sealing up the avowal. 
Why place this stranger between them? Could they affirm 
that it would not interfere with their happiness ? He sus- 
pected danger, and felt his old shiver return at the bare idea 
of raking up this sanguinary story. And she, no doubt, 
guessed his thoughts. 

Roubaud, since the summer, had grown stouter, and in 
proportion as his wife recovered her gaiety and the bloom 
of her twenty years, he grew older and seemed more over- 
cast. In four months he had greatly changed, as she often 
said. He continued to cordially grasp the hand of Jacques, 
inviting him to the lodging, never happy but when he had 
him at his table. Only this diversion no longer sufficed. 
He frequently took himself off as soon as he had swallowed 
the last mouthful, sometimes leaving his comrade with his 
wife, pretending he was stifling, and required fresh air. 

The truth was that he now frequented a small cafe on 
the Cours Napoleon, where he met M. Cauche, the com- 
missary of police attached to the station. He drank but 
little, merely a few small glasses of rum; but he had ac- 
quired a taste for gambling, which was turning to a passion. 
He only recovered energy, and forgot the past, when the 
cards were in his hand, and he found himself engrossed in 
an interminable series of games at piquet. M. Cauche, a 
frightful gambler, had suggested having something on the 
game, and they had made the stake five francs. 

From that moment, Roubaud, astonished not to have 
found himself out before, was burning with a thirst for gain, 
with that scorching fever brought on by money won which 



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19 2 The Monomaniac 

ravages a man to the point of making him stake his position, 
even his life, on a throw of the dice. So far his work had not 
suffered. He escaped as soon as free, returning home at three 
or four o'clock in the morning, on nights when he was off 
duty. His wife never complained. She only reproached him 
with coming back more sullen than before ; for he was pursued 
by extraordinary bad luck, and ultimately got into debt. 

"the first quarrel broke out between SeVerine and Roubaud 
one evening. Without hating him as yet, she had reached 
the point of enduring him with difficulty, for she felt that 
he weighed on her existence. She would have been so 
bright, so happy, had he not burdened her with his presence. 
She experienced no remorse at deceiving him. Was it not 
his own fault? Had he not almost thrust her to the brink 
of the precipice? In the slow process of their disunion, 
to cure themselves of the uneasiness that upset them, both 
found consolation after their own hearts. As he had taken 
to gambling, she could very well have a sweetheart. 

But what angered her more than anything, what she 
would not accept without revolt, was the inconvenience to 
which they were subjected by the continual losses of her 
husband. Since the five-franc pieces of the family flew to 
the cafe" on the Cours Napoleon, she at times did not know 
how to pay her washerwoman, and was deprived of all sorts 
of delicacies and little toilet comforts. 

On this particular evening, it was about the purchase of 
a pair of boots which she really required, that they began 
quarrelling. He, on the point of going out, not finding a 
knife on the table wherewith to cut himself a piece of 
bread, had taken the big knife, the weapon lying in a 
drawer of the sideboard. She kept her eyes on him while 
he refused the fifteen francs for the boots, not having them, 
not knowing where to get them ; and she obstinately repeated 
her demand, forcing him to renew his refusal, which, little 
by little, took a tone of exasperation. 



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The Monomaniac 193 

All at once she pointed out to him with her finger, *he 
place in the parquetry where the spectres slumbered, telling 
him there was money there, and that she wanted some. 
He turned very pale, and let go the knife, which fell into 
the drawer. At first she thought he was going to beat her, 
for he approached her, stammering that the money there 
might rot, that he would sooner cut off his hand than touch 
it again. And with fists clenched he threatened to knock 
her down if she dared, in his absence, to raise the piece 
of parquetry and steal even a centime. Never ! never ! It 
was dead and buried. 

She also had lost her colouf, feeling faint at the idea 
of rummaging in that place. No ; let poverty come, both 
would die of hunger close by the treasure. And, in fact, 
neither of them referred to the subject again, even on days 
when more than usually pinched. If they happened to place 
a foot on the spot, they felt such a sharp burning pain that 
they ended by giving it a wide berth. 

Then, other disputes arose, in regard to La Croix-de- 
Maufras. Why did they not sell the house ? And they 
mutually accused one another of having done nothing that 
should have been done, to hasten the sale. He always 
violently refused to attend to the matter, and on the rare 
occasions when S^verine wrote to Misard on the subject, it 
was only to receive vague replies : no inquiries had been 
made by anyone, the fruit had come to nothing, the vegetables 
would not grow for want of water. 

Little by little, the tranquillity that had settled upon the 
couple after the crisis, became troubled in this manner, and 
seemed swept away in a terrible return of wrath. All the 
germs of unrest, the hidden money, the sweetheart introduced 
on the scene, had developed, parting them and irritating one 
against the other. And, in this increasing agitation, life was 
about to become a pandemonium. 

As if by a fatal counter-shock, everything was going wrong 

13 



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194 The Monomaniac 

in the vicinity of the Roubauds. A fresh gust of tittle-tattle 
and discussions whistled down the corridor. Philomene had 
just violently broken off all connection with Madame Lebleu, 
in consequence of a calumny of the latter, who accused the 
former of selling her a fowl that had died of sickness. But 
the real reason of the rupture was the better understanding 
that prevailed between Philomene and Sdverine. Pecqueux 
having one night met Madame Roubaud arm in arm with 
Jacques, S£verine at once put aside her former scruples and 
made advances to the secret wife of the fireman ; and 
Philomene, very much flattered at this connection with a lady, 
who without contestation was considered the adornment and 
distinction of the railway station, had just turned against the 
wife of the cashier, that old wretch, as she called her, who was 
capable of setting mountains at variance. 

Philomene now declared that all the fault lay with Madame 
Lebleu, telling everybody that the lodging looking on the street 
belonged to the Roubauds, and that it was an abomination 
not to give it them. Matters, therefore, began to look very 
bad for Madame Lebleu, and the more so, as her obstinacy 
in watching Mademoiselle Guichon, in order to surprise her 
with the station-master, threatened also to cause her serious 
trouble. She still failed to catch them, but she had the 
imprudence to get caught herself, her ear on the alert, stuck 
to the keyhole. And M. Dabadie, exasperated at being 
spied upon in this manner, had intimated to the assistant 
station-master, Moulin, that if Roubaud again claimed the 
lodging, he was ready to countersign the letter. Moulin, 
who, although as a rule, little given to gossip, having repeated 
this remark, the lodgers had nearly come to blows, from 
door to door, all along the corridor, so high ran the excite- 
ment that had been thus revived. 

Amidst these disturbances, which became more and more 
frequent, S£verine had but one quiet day in the week, the 
Friday. In October she had placidly displayed the audacity 



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: :: ■ ■ ■ ■ 



The Monomaniac 195 

to invent a pretext for frequently running up to Paris, the 
first that entered her head, a pain in the knee, which required 
the attention of a specialist. Each Friday, she left by the 
6.40 express in the morning, which was driven by Jacques, 
and after passing the day with him at the capital, returned 
by the 6.30 express in the evening. 

At first, she had thought it only right to give her husband 
news of her knee : it was better, it was worse, and so forth. 
Then, perceiving he turned a deaf ear to what she said, she 
had coolly ceased speaking to him on the subject. But ever 
and anon she would cast her eyes on him, wondering whether 
he knew. How was it that this ferociously jealous man, who, 
blinded by blood, had killed a fellow being in an idiotic rage, 
how was it that he had reached the point of. permitting her 
to have a sweetheart? She could not believe it, she simply 
thought he must be getting stupid. 

One icy cold night in December, SeVerine was sitting up 
very late for her husband. The next morning, a Friday, 
she was to take the express before daybreak; and on such 
evenings as these, she had the habit of getting a very nice 
gown ready, and preparing her other garments, so as to be 
rapidly dressed, immediately she jumped out of bed. 

At last, she retired to rest, and ended by falling off to 
sleep about one o'clock. Roubaud had not returned home. 
Already, on two occasions, he had only made his appearance 
at early dawn, his increasing passion for play being such that 
he could not tear himself away from the caf6, where a small 
room at the back was gradually being transformed into a 
gambling hell. They now played for high stakes at ecart& 

Happy to be alone, in a pleasant frame of mind at the 
prospect of a delightful day on the morrow, the young woman 
slumbered soundly, in the gentle warmth of the bedclothes. 
But, as three o'clock was about to strike, she was awakened 
by a singular noise. First of alt she did not understand, she 
fancied she must be dreaming and went to sleep again. 



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196 The Monomaniac 

Then came a dull sound, as of someone pushing against 
something, followed by cracking of wood, as if somebody was 
trying to force open a door. A sharp rent, more violent 
than the other sounds, brought her to a sitting posture in 
bed. She was frightened to death; someone was certainly 
trying to burst the lock in the corridor. For a minute or 
two she dared not move, but listened with drumming ears. 
Then she had the courage to get up, and look. She walked 
noiselessly across the room with bare feet, and gently set the 
door ajar, so chilled with cold that she turned quite pale, 
and the sight that met her eyes in the dining-room, riveted 
her to the spot in surprise and horror. 

Roubaud, grovelling on the ground, raising himself on his 
elbows, had just torn away the dreaded piece of parquetry 
with the assistance of a chisel. A candle, set down beside him, 
afforded light while casting his enormous shadow on the 
ceiling. And at that moment, with his face bent over the 
hole which cut the parquetry with a black slit, he was peering 
with dilated eyes within. His cheeks were flushed, and he 
wore his assassin-like expression. Brutally he plunged his 
hand into the aperture, and, in his trembling agitation, finding 
nothing, he had to bring the candle nearer. Then at the 
bottom of the hole appeared the purse, notes, and watch. 

Severine uttered an involuntary cry, and Roubaud turned 
round, terrified. At first he failed to recognise her, and seeing 
her there, all in white, with a look of horror on her countenance, 
no doubt took her for a spectre. 

" What are you doing there ? " she demanded. 

Then, understanding, avoiding to answer, he only gave a 
sullen growl. But he still looked at her, inconvenienced by 
her presence, wishing to send her back to bed. And not a 
reasonable word came to his lips. He simply felt inclined to 
box her ears, as she stood there shivering in her nightdress. 

" So," she continued, " you refuse me a pair of boots, and 
you take the money for yourself because you have lost." 



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The Monomaniac 197 

This remark at once enraged him. Was she going to spoil 
his life again, to set herself in front of his pleasures — this 
woman whom he no longer cared for? Again he rummaged 
in the hole, but only took from it the purse containing the 
300 frcs. in gold. And when he had fixed the piece of 
parquetry in its place with his heel, he went and flung these 
words in her face, through his set teeth : 

" Go to the deuce ! I shall act as I choose. Am I asking 
you what you are going to do, by-and-by, at Paris ? " 

Then, with a furious shrug of the shoulders, he returned to 
the caf6, leaving the candle on the floor. 

S£verine picked it up, and went back to bed, cold as ice. 
But, unable to get to sleep again, she kept the candle alight, 
waiting, with her eyes wide open, until the time came for the 
departure of the express, and gradually growing burning hot. 
It was now certain that there had been a progressive disorgani- 
sation, like an infiltration of the crime, which was decomposing 
this man, and which had worn out every bond between them. 
Roubaud knew. 



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CHAPTER VII 

ON that particular Friday, the travellers who were to take 
the 6.40 express from Havre, awoke with an exclamation 
of surprise ; snow had been falling since midnight, so thickly 
and in such large flakes, that the streets were a foot deep in it. 

La Lison, attached to a train of seven carriages, three second 
and four first class, was already puffing and smoking under 
the span roof. When Jacques and Pecqueux arrived at the 
depot at about half-past five to get the engine ready, they 
uttered a growl of anxiety at the sight of this persistent snow 
rending the black sky. And now, at their post, they awaited 
the sound of the whistle, with eyes gazing far ahead beyond 
the gaping porch of the marquee, watching the silent, endless 
fall of flakes draping the obscurity in livid hue. 

The driver murmured : 

" The devil take me if you can see a signal ! " 

" We may think ourselves lucky if we can get along," said 
the fireman. * 

Roubaud was on the platform with his lantern, having 
returned at the precise minute to resume his service. At 
moments his heavy eyelids closed with fatigue, without him 
ceasing his supervision. Jacques having inquired whether 
he knew anything as to the state of the line, he had just 
approached and pressed his hand, answering that as yet he 
had received no telegram ; and as Severine came down, 
wrapped in an ample cloak, he led her to a first class com- 
partment and assisted her in. No jdoubt he caught sight 
of the anxious look of tenderness that the two sweethearts 

198 

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The Monomaniac 199 

exchanged ; but he did not even trouble to tell his wife 
that it was imprudent to set out in such weather, and that 
she would do better to postpone her journey. 

Passengers arrived, muffled up, loaded with travelling-bags, 
and there was quite a crush in the terrible morning cold. The 
snow did not even melt on the shoes of the travellers. 
The carriage doors were closed as soon as the people were 
in the compartments where they barricaded themselves ; and 
the platform, badly lit by the uncertain glimmer of a few 
gas-burners, became deserted. The light of the locomotive, 
attached to the base of the chimney, alone burnt brightly like 
a huge eye dilating its sheet of fire far into the obscurity. 

Roubaud raised his lantern to give the signal of departure. 
The headguard blew his whistle, and Jacques answered, after 
opening the regulator and revolving the reversing-wheel. 
They started. For a minute the assistant station-master 
tranquilly gazed after the train disappeatfng in the tempest. 

" Attention ! " said Jacques to Pecqueux. " No joking 
to-day ! " 

He had not failed to remark that his companion seemed 
also worn out with fatigue. Assuredly the consequence of 
some spree on the previous night. 

" Oh ! no fear, no fear ! " stammered the fireman. 
As soon as they left the span roofing of the station, they 
were in the snow. The wind, blowing from the east, caught 
the locomotive in front, beating against it in violent gusts. 
The two men in the cab did not suffer much at first, 
clothed as they were in thick woollen garments, with their 
eyes protected by spectacles. But the light on the engine, 
usually so brilliant at night, seemed swallowed up in the 
thick fall of snow. Instead of the metal way being illuminated 
three or four hundred yards ahead, it came into evidence in 
a sort of milky fog. The various objects could only be 
distinguished when the locomotive was quite close to them, 
and then they appeared indistinct, as in a dream. 



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2oo The Monomaniac 

The anxiety of the driver was complete when he recognised, 
on reaching the first signal-post, that he would certainly be 
unable, as he had feared, to see the red lights barring the 
lines at the regulation distances. From that moment he ad- 
vanced with extreme prudence, but without it being possible 
for him to slacken speed, for the wind offered extraordinary 
resistance, and delay would have been as dangerous as a 
too rapid advance. 

As far as Harfleur, La Lison went along at a good and well- 
sustained pace. The layer of snow that had fallen did not 
as yet trouble Jacques, for, at the most, there were two feet 
on the line, and the snow-blade could easily clear away four. 
All his anxiety was to maintain the speed, well aware that the 
real merit of a driver, after temperance, and esteem for his 
engine, consisted in advancing in an uniform way, without 
jolting, and at the highest pressure possible. 

Indeed, his only defect lay in his obstinacy not to stop. 
He disobeyed the signals, always thinking he would have 
time to master La Lison ; and so he now and again over- 
shot the mark, crushing the crackers, the "corns" as they 
are termed, and, on two occasions, this habit had caused him 
to be suspended for a week. But now, in the great danger 
in which he felt himself, the thought that S£verine was there, 
that he was entrusted with her dear life, increased his strength 
of character tenfold ; and he maintained his determination to 
be cautious air the way to Paris, all along that double metal 
line, bristling with obstacles that he must overcome. 

Standing on the sheet of iron connecting the engine with 
the tender, continually jolted by their oscillation, Jacques, 
notwithstanding the snow, leant over the side, on the right, 
to get a better view. For he could distinguish nothing 
through the cab window clouded with water; and he re- 
mained with his face exposed to the gusts of wind, his skin 
pricked as with thousands of needles, and so pinched with 
cold that it seemed like being slashed with razors. Ever 



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The Monomaniac 201 

and anon he withdrew to take breath; he removed- his 
spectacles and wiped them ; then he resumed his former 
position facing the hurricane, his eyes fixed, in the expectation 
of seeing red lights; and so absorbed was he in his anxiety 
to find them, that on two occasions he fell a prey to the 
hallucination that crimson sparks were boring the white 
curtain of snow fluttering before him. 

But, on a sudden, in the darkness, he felt a presentiment 
that his fireman was no longer there. Only a small lantern 
lit up the steam-gauge, so that the eyes of the driver might 
not be inconvenienced; and, on the enamelled face of the 
manometer, which preserved its clear lustre, he noticed the 
trembling blue hand rapidly retreating. The fire was going 
down. The fireman had just stretched himself on the chest, 
vanquished by fatigue. 

" Infernal rake ! " exclaimed Jacques, shaking him in 
a rage. 

Pecqueux rose, excusing himself in an unintelligible growl. 
He could hardly stand; but, by force of habit, he at once 
went to his fire, hammer in hand, breaking the coal, spreading 
it evenly on the bars with the shovel. Then he swept up 
with the broom. And while the door of the fire-box remained 
open, a reflex from the furnace, like the flaming tail of a 
comet extending to the rear of the train, had set fire to the 
snow which fell across it in great golden drops. 

After Harfleur began the big ascent, ten miles long, which 
extends to Saint-Romain — the steepest on the line. And the 
driver stood to the engine, full of attention, anticipating that 
La Lison would have to make a famous effort to ascend this 
hill, already hard to climb in fine weather. With his hand 
on the reversing-wheel, he watched the telegraph poles fly 
by, endeavouring to form an idea of the speed. This de- 
creased considerably. La Lison was puffing, while the 
scraping of the snow-blade indicated growing resistance. He 
opened the door of the fire-box with the toe of his boot. 



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202 The Monomaniac 

The fireman, half asleep, understood, and added more fuel 
to the embers, so as to increase the pressure. 

The door was now becoming red-hot, lighting up the legs 
of both of them with a violet gleam. But neither felt the 
scorching heat in the current of icy air that enveloped them. 
The fireman, at a sign from his chief, had just raised the 
rod of the ash-pan which added to the draught. The 
hand of the manometer at present marked ten atmospheres, 
and La Lison was exerting all the power it possessed. At 
one moment, perceiving the water in the steam-gauge sink, the 
driver had to turn the injection-cock, although by doing so 
he diminished the pressure. Nevertheless, it rose again, the 
engine snorted and spat like an animal over-ridden, making 
jumps and efforts fit to convey the idea that it would suddenly 
crack some of its component pieces. And he treated La 
Lison roughly, like a woman who has grown old and lost 
her strength, ceasing to feel the same tenderness for it 
as formerly. 

" The lazy thing will never get to the top," said he 
between his set teeth — he who never uttered a word on the 
journey. 

Pecqueux, in his drowsiness, looked at him in astonishment. 
What had he got now against La Lison? Was it not still 
the same brave, obedient locomotive, starting so readily that 
it was a pleasure to set it in motion; and gifted with such 
excellent vaporisation that it economised a tenth part of its 
coal between Paris and Havre ? When an engine had slide 
valves like this one, so perfectly regulated, cutting the steam 
so miraculously, they could overlook all imperfections, as 
in the case of a capricious, but steady and economical 
housewife. No doubt La Lison took too much grease, but 
what of that ? They would grease it, and there was an end 
of the matter. 

Just at that moment, Jacques, in exasperation, repeated : 

" It'll never reach the top, unless it's greased ! " 



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The Monomaniac 203 

And he did what he had not done thrice in his life. He 
took the oil-can to grease the engine as it went along. 
Climbing over the rail, he got on the frame-plate beside the 
boiler, which he followed to the end. It was a most perilous 
undertaking. His feet slipped on the narrow strip of iron, wet 
with snow. He was blinded, and the terrible wind threatened 
to sweep him away like a straw. 

La Lison, with this man clinging to its side, continued 
its panting course ,in the darkness, cutting for itself a deep 
trench in the immense white sheet covering the ground. The 
engine shook him, but bore him along. On attaining the 
cross-piece in front, he held on to the rail with one hand, 
and, stooping down before the oil-box of the cylinder on 
the right, experienced the greatest difficulty in filling it. Then 
he had to go round to the other side, like a crawling insect, 
to grease the cylinder on the left. And when he got back 
to his post, he was exhausted and deadly pale, having felt 
himself face to face with death. 

" Vile brute ! " he murmured. 

Pecqueux had recovered, in a measure, from his drowsiness, 
and pulled himself together. He, too, was at his post, 
watching the line on the left. On ordinary occasions he had 
good eyes, better than those of his chief, but in this storm 
everything had disappeared. They, to whom each mile of 
the metal way was so familiar, could barely recognise the 
places they passed. The line had disappeared in the snow, 
the hedges, the houses, even, seemed about to follow suit. 
Around them was naught but a deserted and boundless 
expanse, where La Uson seemed to be careering at will, in 
a fit of madness. 

Never had these two men felt so keenly the fraternal bond 
uniting them as on this advancing engine, let loose amidst 
all kinds of danger, where they were more alone, more 
abandoned by the world, than if locked up in a room by 
themselves ; and where, moreover, they had the grievous, the 



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204 The Monomaniac 

crushing responsibility of the human lives they were dragging 
after them. 

The snow continued falling thicker than ever. They were 
still ascending, when the fireman, in his turn, fancied he 
perceived the glint of a red light in the distance and told his 
chief. But already he had lost it. His eyes must have been 
dreaming, as he sometimes said. And the driver, who had 
seen nothing, remained with a beating heart, troubled at this 
hallucination of another, and losing confidence in himself. 

What he imagined he distinguished beyond the myriads 
of pale flakes were immense black forms, enormous masses, 
like gigantic pieces of the night, which seemed to displace 
themselves and come before the engine. Could these be 
landslips, mountains barring the line against which the train 
was about to crush? Then, affrighted, he pulled the rod 
of the whistle, and whistled long, despairingly; and this 
lamentation went slowly and lugubriously through the storm. 
Then he was astonished to find that he had whistled at 
the right moment, for the train was passing the station of 
Saint-Romain at express speed, and he had thought it two 
miles away. 

La Lison, having got over the terrible ascent, began rolling 
on more at ease, and Jacques had time to breathe. Between 
Saint-Romain and Bolbec the line makes an imperceptible 
rise, so that all would, no doubt, be well until the other 
side of the plateau. While he was at Beuzeville, during the 
three minutes' stoppage, he nevertheless called the station- 
master, whom he perceived on the platform, wishing to convey 
to him his anxiety about this snow, which continued getting 
deeper and deeper : he would never be able 'to reach Rouen ; 
the best thing would be to put on another engine, while he 
was at a depot, where locomotives were always ready. But 
the station-master answered that he had no orders, and that 
he did not feel disposed to take the responsibility of such a 
measure on himself. All he offered to do was to give five or 



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The Monomaniac 205 

six wooden shovels to clear the line in case of need; and 
Pecqueux took the shovels, which he placed in a corner 
of the tender. 

On the plateau, La Lison, as Jacques had foreseen, continued 
to advance at a good speed, and without too much trouble. 
Nevertheless, it tired. At every minute the driver had 
to make a sign and open the fire-box, so that the fireman 
might put on coal. And each time he did so, above the 
mournful train, standing out in black upon all this whiteness 
and covered with a winding sheet of snow, flamed the dazzling 
tail of the comet, boring into the night. 

At threequarters of an hour past seven, day was breaking ; 
but the wan dawn could hardly be discerned in the immense 
whitish whirlwind filling space within the entire horizon. 
This uncertain light, by which nothing could as yet be 
distinguished, increased the anxiety of the two men, who, 
with eyes watering, notwithstanding their spectacles, did their 
utmost to pierce the distance. The driver, without letting go 
the reversing-wheel never quitted the rod of the whistle. He 
sounded it almost continuously, by prudence, giving a shriek 
of distress that penetrated like a wail to the depths of this 
desert of snow. 

They passed Bolbec, and then Yvetot, without difficulty. 
But at Motteville, Jacques made inquiries of the assistant 
station-master for precise information as to the state of the 
line. No train had yet arrived, and a telegram that had 
been received merely stated that the slow train from Paris 
was blocked at Rouen in safety. And La Lison went on 
again, descending at her heavy and weary gait the ten miles 
or so of gentle slope to Barentin. 

Daylight now began to appear, but very dimly; and it 
seemed as if this livid glimmer came from the snow itself 
which fell more densely, confused and cold, overwhelming 
the earth with the refuse of the sky. As day grew, the violence 
of the wind redoubled, and the snowflakes were driven along 



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206 The Monomaniac 

in balls. At every moment the fireman had to take his 
shovel to clear the coal at the back of the tender between 
the partitions of the water-tank. 

The country, to right and left, so absolutely defied recog- 
nition, that the two men felt as if they were being borne 
along in a dream. The vast flat fields, the rich pastures 
enclosed in green hedges, the apple orchards were naught 
but a white sea, barely swelling with choppy waves, a pallid, 
quivering expanse where everything became white. And the 
driver erect, with his hand on the reversing-wheel, his face 
lacerated by the gusts of wind, began to suffer terribly 
from cold. 

When the train stopped at Barentin, M. Bessiere, the 
station-master, himself approached the engine, to warn Jacques 
that a considerable accumulation of snow had been signalled 
in the vicinity of La Croix-de-Maufras. 

" I believe it is still possible to pass," he added ; " but it 
will not be without difficulty." 

Thereupon, the young man flew into a passion, and with 
an oath exclaimed : 

" I said as much at Beuzeville ! Why couldn't they put on 
a second locomotive ? We shall be in a nice mess now ! " 

The headguard had just left his van, and he became angry 
as well. He was frozen in his box, and declared that he 
could not distinguish a signal from a telegraph pole. It was 
a regular groping journey in all this white. 

"Anyhow, you are warned," said M. Bessiere. 

In the meantime the passengers were astonished at this 
prolonged stoppage, amid the complete silence enveloping 
the station, without a shout from any of the staff, or the 
banging of a door. A few windows were lowered, and heads 
appeared : a very stout lady with a couple of charming, fair 
young girls, no doubt her daughters, all three English for 
certain; and, further on, a very pretty dark, young woman, 
who was made to draw in her head by an elderly gentleman ; 



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The Monomaniac 207 

while two men, one young and the other old, chatted from 
one carriage to the other, with their bodies half out of the 
windows. 

But as Jacques cast a glance behind him, he perceived only 
SeVerine, who was also looking out and gazing anxiously in his 
direction. Ah ! the dear creature, how uneasy she must be, 
and what a heartburn he experienced knowing her there, so 
near and yet so far away in all this danger ! 

" Come ! Be off ! " concluded the station-master. " It is no 
use frightening the people." 

He gave the signal himself. The headguard, who had 
got into his van, whistled ; and once more La Lison went off, 
after answering with a long wail of complaint. 

Jacques at once felt that the state of the line had changed. 
It was no longer the plain, the eternal unfolding of the thick 
sheet of snow, through which the engine ran along, like a steam- 
boat, leaving a trail behind her. They were entering the uneven 
country of hills and dales, whose enormous undulation ex- 
tended as far as Malaunay, breaking up the ground into 
heaps; and here the snow had collected in an unequal 
manner. In places the line proved free, while in others 
it was blocked by drifts of considerable magnitude. The 
wind that swept the embankments filled up the cuttings; 
and thus there was a continual succession of obstacles to 
be overcome : bits of clear line blocked by absolute ramparts. 
It was now broad daylight, and the devastated country, those 
narrow gorges, those steep slopes, resembled in their white 
coating, the desolation of an ocean of ice remaining motion- 
less in the storm. 

Never had Jacques felt so penetrated by the cold. His 
face seemed bleeding from the stinging flagellation of the 
snow ; and he had lost consciousness of his hands, Vhich 
were so benumbed and so bereft of sensibility, that he 
shuddered on perceiving he could not feel the touch of 
the reversing-wheel. When he raised his elbow to pull the 



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2o8 The Monomaniac 

rod of the whistle, his arm weighed on the shoulder as if 
dead. He could not have affirmed that his legs still carried 
him, amid the constant shocks of oscillation that tore his 
inside. Great fatigue had gained him, along with the cold, 
whose icy chill was attaining his head. He began to doubt 
whether he existed, whether he was still driving, for he 
already only turned the wheel in a mechanical way; and, 
half silly, he watched the manometer going back. 

All kinds of hallucinations passed through his head. Was 
not that a felled tree, over there, lying across the line ? Had 
he not caught sight of a red flag flying above that hedge? 
Were not crackers going off" every minute amidst the clatter 
of the wheels ? He could not have answered. He repeated 
to himself that he ought to stop, and he lacked the firmness 
of will to do so. This crisis tortured him for a few minutes ; 
then, abruptly, the sight of Pecqueux, who had fallen asleep 
again on the chest, overcome by the cold from which he 
was suffering himself, threw him into such a frightful rage 
that it seemed to bring him warmth. 

" Ah ! the abominable brute ! " he exclaimed. 

And he, who was usually so lenient for the vices of this 
drunkard, kicked him until he awoke, and was on his feet. 
Pecqueux, benumbed with cold, grumbled as he grasped 
the shovel: 

" That'll do, that'll do ; I'm going there ! " 

With the fire made up, the pressure rose ; and it was time, 
for La Lison had just entered a cutting where it had to cleave 
through four feet of snow. It advanced with an energetic 
effort, vibrating in every part. For an instant it showed signs 
of exhaustion, and seemed as if about to stand still, like a 
vessel that has touched a sandbank. What increased the 
weight it had to draw was the snow, which had accumulated 
in a heavy layer on the roofs of the carriages. 

They continued thus, seaming the whiteness with a dark 
line, with this white sheet spread over them; while the 



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The Monomaniac 209 

engine itself had only borders of ermine draping its sombre 
sides, where the snowflakes melted to run off in rain. Once 
more it extricated itself, notwithstanding the weight, and 
passed on. At the top of an embankment, that made a great 
curve, the train could still be seen advancing without difficulty, 
like a strip of shadow lost in some fairyland sparkling with 
whiteness. 

But, farther on, the cuttings began again ; and Jacques and 
Pecqueux, who had felt La Lison touch, stiffened themselves 
against the cold, erect at their posts, which even, were they 
dying, they could not desert. Once more the engine lost 
speed ; it had got between two talus, and the stoppage came 
slowly and without a shock. It seemed as if glued there,, 
exhausted ; as though all its wheels were clogged, tighter and 
tighter. It ceased moving, the end had come; the snow 
held the engine powerless. 

" It's all up ! " growled Jacques with an oath. 

He remained a few seconds longer at his post, his hand 
on the wheel, opening everything to see if the obstacle would 
yield. Then, hearing La Lison spitting and snorting in vain, 
he shut the regulator, and, in his fury, swore worse than ever. 

The headguard leant out from the door of his van, and 
Pecqueux, turning round, shouted to him : 

" It's all up ! We're stuck ! " 

Briskly the guard sprang into the snow, which reached to 
his knees. He approached, and the three men consulted 
together. 

"The only thing we can do is to try and dig it out," said 
the driver at last. "Fortunately, we have some shovels. 
Call the second guard at the end of the train, and between 
us four we shall be able to clear the wheels." 

They gave a sign to the other guard behind, who had also 
left his van. He made his way to them with great difficulty, 
getting at times half buried in the snow. 

But this stoppage in the open country, amid this pallid 

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210 The Monomaniac 

solitude, this clear sound of voices discussing what must 
be done, the guard floundering along beside the train with 
laborious strides had made the passengers uneasy. The 
windows went down ; the people called out and questioned 
one another; a regular confusion ensued — vague, as yet, 
but becoming more pronounced. 

" Where are we ? Why have they stopped ? What is the 
matter ? Good heavens ! is there an accident ? " 

The guard found it necessary to allay the alarm; and 
just as he advanced to the carriages, the English lady, whose 
fat red face was flanked by the charming countenances of 
her daughters, inquired with a strong accent: 

" Guard, is there any danger ? " 

" No, no, madam," he replied. " It's only a little snow. 
We shall be going on at once." 

And the window went up again amid the bright twittering 
of the young girls — that music of English syllables which is 
so sparkling on rosy lips. Both were laughing, very much 
amused. 

But the elderly gentleman, who was farther on, also called 
the guard, while his young wife risked her pretty dark head 
behind him. 

"How was it that no precautions were taken? It is 
unbearable. I am returning from London. My business 
requires my presence in Paris this morning, and I warn 
you that I shall make the company responsible for any delay." 

" We shall be going on again in three minutes, sir," said 
the guard. 

The cold was terrible ; the snow entered the carriages, 
driving in the heads and bringing up the windows. But 
the agitation continued within the closed vehicles, where 
everyone was disturbed by a low hum of anxiety. A couple 
of windows alone remained down ; and two travellers leaning 
out, three compartments away from each other, were talking. 
One was an American some forty years of age, and the 



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The Monomaniac 211 

other a young gentleman from Havre. Both were very 
much interested in the task of clearing away the snow. 

" In America everyone would get down and take a shovel," 
remarked the former. 

" Oh ! it is nothing ! " answered the other. " I was blocked 
twice last year. My business brings me to Paris every week." 

" And mine every three weeks, or so." 

"What! from New York?" 

"Yes; from New York." 

It was Jacques who directed the labour. Perceiving 
Severine at the door of the first carriage, where she always 
took her seat, so as to be near him, he gave her a look of 
entreaty ; and she, understanding, drew back out of the icy 
wind that was stinging her face. Then, with her occupying 
his thoughts, he worked away heartily. 

But he remarked that the cause of the stoppage, the 
embedment in the snow had nothing to do with the wheels, 
which cut through the deepest drifts. It was the ash-pan, 
placed between them, that produced the obstruction, by 
driving the snow along, compressing it into enormous lumps. 
And he was struck with an idea. 

" We must unscrew the ash-pan," said he. 

At first the headguard opposed the suggestion. The driver 
was under his orders, and he would not give his consent to 
the engine being touched. Then, giving way to argument, 
he said : 

" If you take the responsibility, all right ! " 

Only it was a hard job. Stretched out beneath the engine, 
with their backs in the melting snow, Jacques and Pecqueux 
had to toil for nearly half an hour. Fortunately they had 
spare screwdrivers in the toolchest. At last, at the risk of 
burning themselves and getting crushed a score of times over, 
they managed to take the ash-pan down. But they had 
not done with it yet. It was necessary to drag it away. 
Being an enormous weight, it got jammed in the wheels and 



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ai2 The Monomaniac 

cylinders. Nevertheless, the four together were able to pull it 
out, and drag it off the line to the foot of the embankment. 

" Now let us finish clearing away the snow," said the guard. 

The train had been close upon an hour in distress, and 
the alarm of the passengers had increased. Every minute 
a glass went down, and a voice inquired why they did not 
go on. There was a regular panic, with shouts and tears, 
in an increscent crisis of craziness. 

"No, no, enough has been cleared away," said Jacques. 
"Jump up, I'll see to the rest." 

He was once more at his post, along with Pecqueux, and 
when the two guards had gained their vans, he turned on 
the exhaust-tap. The deafening rush of scalding steam 
melted the remainder of the snow still clinging to the line. 
Then, with his hand on the wheel, he reversed the engine, 
and slowly retreated to a distance. of about four hundred yards, 
to give it a run. And having piled up the fire, and attained 
a pressure exceeding what was permitted by the regulations, 
he sent La Lison against the wall of snow with all its might 
and all the weight of the train it drew. 

The locomotive gave a terrific grunt, similar to that of a 
woodman driving his axe into a great tree, and it seemed 
as though all the powerful ironwork was about to crack. It 
could not pass yet. It came to a standstill, smoking and 
vibrating all over with the shock. Twice the driver had to 
repeat the manoeuvre, running back, then dashing against 
the snow to drive it away. On each occasion, La Lison, 
girded for the encounter, struck its chest against the im- 
pediment with the furious respiration of a giant, but to no 
purpose. At last, regaining breath, it strained its metal 
muscles in a supreme effort and passed, while the train 
followed ponderously behind, between the two walls of snow 
ripped asunder. It was free ! 

" A good brute, all the same ! " growled Pecqueux. 

Jacques, half blinded, removed his spectacles and wiped 



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The Monomaniac 213 

them. His heart beat hard. He no longer felt the cold. 
But abruptly he remembered a deep cutting, some four 
hundred yards away from La Croix-de-Maufras. It opened in 
the direction of the wind, and the snow must have accumu- 
lated there in a considerable quantity. He at once felt certain 
that this was the rock, marked out, whereon he would founder. 
He bent forward. In the distance, after a final curve, the 
trench appeared before him in a straight line, like a long 
ditch full of snow. It was broad daylight, and the boundless 
whiteness sparkled amid the unceasing fall of snowflakes. 

La Lison skimmed along at a medium .speed, having 
encountered no further obstacle. By precaution, the lanterns 
had been left burning in front and behind; and the white 
light at the base of the chimney shone in the daylight like 
a living Cyclopean eye. The engine rolled along, approach- 
ing the cutting, with this eye wide open. Then it seemed 
to pant, with the gentle short respiration of an affrighted steed. 
It shook with deep thrills, it reared, and was only impelled 
forward under the vigorous hand of the driver. The latter 
had rapidly opened the door of the fire-box for the fireman 
to put in coal. And now it was no more the tail of a comet 
illuminating the night, it was a plume of thick black smoke, 
soiling the great shivering pallidness of the sky. 

La Lison advanced. At last it had to enter the cutting. 
The slopes, to right and left, were deep in snow ; and at the 
bottom not a vestige of the line could be seen. It was like 
the bed of a torrent filled up with snow from side to side. 
The locomotive passed in, rolling along for sixty or seventy 
yards, with exhausted respiration that grew shorter and shorter. 
The snow it pushed forward formed a barrier in front, which 
flew about and rose like an ungovernable flood threaten- 
ing to engulf it. For a moment it appeared overwhelmed and 
vanquished. But, in a final effort, it delivered itself to advance 
another forty yards. That was the end, the last pang of 
death. Lumps of snow fell down covering the wheels ; all 



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214 The Monomaniac 

the pieces of the mechanism were smothered, connected with 
one another by chains of ice. And La Lison stopped definitely, 
expiring in the intense cold. Its respiration died away, it 
was motionless and dead. 

" There, we're done for now," said Jacques. " That is 
just what I expected." 

He at once wanted to reverse the engine, to try the previous 
manoeuvre again. But, this time, La Lison did not move. 
It refused either to go back or advance, it was blocked every- 
where, riveted to the ground, inert and insensible. Behind, 
the train, buried in a thick bed reaching to the doors, also 
seemed dead. The snow, far from ceasing, fell more densely 
than before in prolonged squalls. They were in a drift, 
where engine and carriages, already half covered up, would 
soon disappear amid the shivering silence of this hoary solitude. 
Nothing more moved. The snow was weaving the winding 
sheet. 

"What!" exclaimed the chiefguard, leaning out of his 
van; "has it begun again?" 

" We're done for ! " Pecqueux simply shouted. 

This time, indeed, the position proved critical. The guard 
in the rear ran and placed fog-signals on the line, to protect 
the train at the back ; while the driver sounded distractedly, 
with swift breaks, the panting, lugubrious whistle of distress. 
But the snow loading the air, the sound was lost, and could 
not even have reached Barentin. What was to be done ? They 
were but four, and they would never be able to clear away 
such an immense mass — a regular gang of labourers would 
be necessary. It became imperative to run for assistance. 
And the worst of it was that the passengers were again 
in a panic. 

A door opened. The pretty dark lady sprang from her 
carriage in a fright, thinking they had met with an accident. 
Her husband, the elderly commercial man, followed, ex- 
claiming : 



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The Monomaniac 215 

" I shall write to the Minister. It's an outrage ! " 

Then came the tears of the women, the furious voices of 
the men, as they jumped from their compartments, amid the 
violent shocks of the lowered windows. The two young 
English girls, who were at ease and smiling, alone displayed 
some gaiety.- While the headguard was trying to calm the 
crowd, the younger of the two said to him in French, with 
a slight Britannic accent : 

" So, it is here that we stop, then, guard ? " 

Several men had got down, notwithstanding the depth of 
snow in which their legs entirely disappeared. The American 
again found himself beside the young man from Havre, and 
both made their way to the engine, to see for themselves. 
They tossed their heads. 

" It will take four or five hours to get us out of that," said 
one. 

"At least," answered the other, "and even then it will 
require a score of workmen." 

Jacques had just persuaded the headguard to send his 
companion to Barentin to ask for help. Neither the driver 
nor the fireman could leave the engine. 

The man was already far away, they soon lost sight of him 
at the end of the cutting. He had three miles to walk, and 
perhaps would not be hack before two hours. And Jacques, 
in despair, left his post for an instant, and ran to the first 
carriage where he perceived Severine who had let down the 
glass. 

"Don't be afraid," said he rapidly; "you have nothing 
to fear." 

She answered in the same tone, avoiding familiarity lest 
she might be overheard: 

" I'm not afraid ; only I've been very uneasy about you." 

And this was said so sweetly that both were consoled, and 
smiled at one another. But as Jacques turned round, he 
was surprised to see Flore at the top of the cutting ; then 



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216 The Monomaniac 

Misard, accompanied by two other men, whom he failed to 
recognise at first. They had heard the distress whistle; 
and Misard, who was off duty, had hastened to the spot 
along with his two companions, whom he had been treating 
to a morning draught of white wine. One of these men 
proved to be Cabuche, thrown out of work by the snow, 
and the other Ozil, who had come from Malaunay through 
the tunnel, to pay court to Flore, whom he still pursued with 
his attentions, in spite of the bad reception he met with. 
She, out of curiosity, like a great vagabond girl, brave and 
strong as a young man, accompanied them. 

For her and her father, this was a great event — an extra- 
ordinary adventure, this train stopping, so to say, at their 
door. During the five years they had been living there, 
at every hour of the day and night, in fine weather and foul, 
how many trains had they seen dart by ! All were borne 
away in the same breath that brought them. Not one had 
even slackened speed. They saw them dash ahead, fade 
in the distance, disappear, before they had time to learn 
anything about them. The whole world filed past ; the 
human multitude carried along full steam, without them 
having knowledge of aught else than faces caught sight of 
in a flash — faces they were never more to set eyes on, apart 
from a few that became familiar to them, through being seen 
over and over again on particular days, and to which they 
could attach no name. 

And here, in the snow, a train arrived at their door. The 
natural order of things was reversed. They stared to their 
hearts' content at this little unknown world of people, whom 
an accident had cast on the line ; they contemplated them 
with the rounded eyes of savages, who had sped to a shore 
where a number of Europeans had been shipwrecked. Those 
open doors revealing ladies wrapped in furs, those men who 
had got out in thick overcoats ; all this comfortable luxury, 
stranded amid this sea of ice, struck them with astonishment. 



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The Monomaniac 217 

But Flore had recognised S^verine. She, who watched 
each time for the train driven by Jacques, had perceived, 
during the past few weeks, the presence of this woman in 
the express on Friday morning; and the more readily, as 
S£verine, on approaching the level crossing, put her head 
out of the window to take a glance at her property of 
La Croix-de-Maufras. The eyes of Flore clouded as she 
noticed her talking in an undertone with the driver. 

" Ah ! Madame Roubaud ! " exclaimed Misard, who had 
also just recognised her ; and at once assuming his obsequious 
manner, he continued : " What dreadful bad luck ! But you 
cannot remain there, you must come to our house." 

Jacques, after pressing the hand of the gateman, supported 
his invitation. 

" He is right," said he. " We may have to wait here for 
hours, and you will be perished to death." 

Se>erine refused. She was well wrapped up, she said. 
Then, the four hundred yards in the snow frightened her a 
little. Thereupon Flore drew near, and, looking fixedly at 
her with her great eyes, ended by saying : 

" Come, madam, I will carry you." 

And before SeVerine had time to accept she had caught 
her in her arms, vigorous as those of a young man, and lifted 
her up like a little child. She set her down on the other 
side of the line, at a spot which had been well-trodden, and 
where the feet no longer sank into the snow. Some of the 
travellers began to laugh, marvelling at the achievement. 
What a strapping wench ! If they only had a dozen of the 
same kidney the train would be free in a couple of hours. 

In the meanwhile, the suggestion that Misard had been 
heard to make, this house of the gatekeeper, where they could 
take refuge, find a fire, and perhaps bread and wine, flew 
from one carriage to another. The panic had calmed down 
when the people understood that they ran no immediate 
danger ; only the position remained none the less lamentable : 



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2i 8 The Monomaniac 

the foot-warmers were becoming cold, it was nine o'clock, and 
if help tarried they would be suffering from hunger and thirst. 
Besides, the line might remain blocked much longer than 
was anticipated. Who could say they would not have to 
sleep there? 

The passengers divided into two camps : those who in 
despair would not quit the carriages, and installed themselves 
as if they were going to end their days there, wrapped up 
in their blankets, stretched out in a peevish frame of mind 
on the seats ; and those who preferred risking the trip, in the 
hope of finding more comfortable quarters, and, who above 
all, were desirous of escaping from this nightmare of a train 
stranded in the snow and being frozen to death. Quite 
a small party was formed, the elderly commercial man and 
his young wife, the English lady and her two daughters, 
the young man from Havre, the American, and a dozen 
others all ready to set out. 

Jacques, in a low voice, had persuaded S^verine to join 
them, vowing he would take her news, if he could get away. 
And as Flore continued observing them with her clouded 
eyes, he addressed her gently, like an old friend: 

"All right! It's understood, you will show these ladies 
and gentlemen the way. I shall keep Misard and the others. 
We'll set to work and do what we can until help arrives." 

Cabuche, Ozil, and Misard, in fact, at once caught hold 
of shovels to join Pecqueux and the headguard who were 
already attacking the snow. The little gang strove to clear 
the engine, digging round the wheels and emptying their 
shovels against the sides of the cutting. Nobody spoke, 
nothing could be heard but the sound of their impulsive 
labour amid the gloomy oppression of the pallid country. 
And when the little troop of passengers were far away, they 
took a last look at the train, which remained alone, showing 
merely a thin black line beneath the thick layer of white 
weighing on the top of it. The travellers remaining behind 



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mm 



The Monomaniac 219 

had closed the doors and put up the glasses. The snow 
continued falling, slowly but surely, and with mute obstinacy, 
burying engine and carriages. 

Flore wanted to take S^verine in her arms again; but 
the latter refused, wishing to walk like the others. The four 
hundred yards were painful to get over, particularly in the 
cutting where the people sank in up to the hips; and on 
two occasions it became necessary to go to the rescue of 
the stout English lady who was half smothered. Her 
daughters, who were delighted, continued laughing. The 
young wife of the old gentleman, having slipped, consented 
to take the arm of the young man from Havre; while her 
husband ran down France with the American. On issuing 
from the cutting walking became easier; the little band 
advanced along an embankment in single file, beaten by 
the wind, carefully avoiding the edges rendered uncertain 
and dangerous by the snow. 

At length they arrived, and Flore took them into the 
kitchen where she was unable to find a seat for all, as 
there proved to be quite a score of them crowding the room, 
which fortunately was fairly large. The only thing she 
could think of was to go and fetch some planks, and rig 
up a couple of forms by the aid of the chairs she possessed. 
She then threw a faggot on the hearth, and made a gesture 
to indicate that they must not ask her for anything more. 
She had not uttered a word. She remained erect, gazing 
at these people with her large greenish eyes, in the fierce, 
bold manner of a great blonde savage. 

Apart from the face of S^verine, those of the American, 
and the young man from Havre alone, were known to her. 
These she was familiar with through having frequently 
noticed them at the windows for months past; and she 
examined them, now, just as one studies an insect which, 
after buzzing about in the air, has at length settled on 
something, and which it was impossible to follow on the 



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220 The Monomaniac 

wing. They struck her as peculiar. She had not imagined 
them exactly thus, having caught but a glimpse of their 
features. As to the other people, they seemed to her to 
belong to a different race — to be the inhabitants of an 
unknown land, fallen from the sky, who brought into her 
home, right into her kitchen, garments, customs, and ideas 
that she had never anticipated finding there. 

The English lady confided to the young wife of the 
commercial gentleman that she was on her way to join her 
eldest son, a high functional in India; and the young 
woman joked about the ill-luck she had met with, on the 
first occasion she happened to have the caprice to accompany 
her husband to London where he went twice a year. All 
lamented being blocked in this desert. What were they 
to do for food, and how were they going to sleep ? What 
could be done, good heavens ! 

Flore, who was listening to them motionless, having caught 
the eyes of SeVerine, seated on a chair before the fire, made 
her a sign that she wanted to take her into the adjoining room. 

" Mamma," said she as they entered, " it's Madame 
Roubaud. "Wouldn't you like to have a chat with her?" 

Phasie was in bed, her face yellow, her legs swollen; so 
ill that she had not been able to get up for a fortnight. 
And she passed this time in the poorly furnished room, • 
heated to suffocation by an iron stove, obstinately pondering 
over the fixed idea she had got into her head, without any 
other amusement than the shock of the trains as they flew 
past full speed. 

"Ah! Madame Roubaud," she murmured; "very good, 
very good." 

Flore told her of the accident, and spoke to her of the 
people she had brought home, and who were there in the 
kitchen. But such things had ceased to interest her. 

" Very good, very good," she repeated in the same weary 
voice. 



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The Monomaniac 221 

Suddenly she recollected, and raised her head an instant 
to say : 

" If madam would like to see her house, the keys are 
hanging there, near the wardrobe." 

But S£verine refused. A shiver had come over her at 
the thought of going to La Croix-de-Maufras in this snow, 
in this livid daylight. No, no, there was nothing she desired 
to do there. She preferred to remain where she was, and 
wait in the warmth. 

" Be seated, madam," resumed Flore. " It is more 
comfortable here than in the other room; and, besides, 
we shall never be able to find sufficient bread for all these 
people; whereas, if you are hungry, there will always be 
a bit for you." 

She had handed her a chair, and continued to show 
herself attentive, making a visible effort to attenuate her 
usual rough manner. But her eyes never quitted the young 
woman. It seemed as if she wished to read her; to arrive 
at a certainty in regard to a particular question that she had 
already been asking herself for some time ; and, in her 
eagerness, she felt a desire to approach her, to stare her 
out of countenance, to touch her, so as to know. 

S^verine expressed her thanks, and made herself comfort- 
able near the stove, preferring, indeed, to be alone with the 
invalid in this room, where she hoped Jacques would find 
means to join her. Two hours passed. Yielding to the 
oppressive heat, she had fallen asleep, after chatting about 
the neighbourhood. Suddenly, Flore, who at every minute 
had been summoned to the kitchen, opened the door, saying 
in her harsh tones : 
" Go in, as she is there." 

It was Jacques who had escaped with good news. The 
man sent to Barentin had just brought back a whole gang, 
some thirty soldiers, whom the administration, foreseeing 
accidents, had dispatched to the threatened points on the 



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222 The Monomaniac 

line ; and they were all hard at work with pick and shovel. 
Only it would be a long job, and the train would, perhaps, 
not be able to get off again before evening. 

"Anyhow, you are not so badly off," he added; "have 
patience. And, Aunt Phasie, you will not let Madame 
Roubaud starve, will you?" 

Phasie, at the sight of her big lad, as she called him, had 
with difficulty sat up, and she looked at him, revived and 
happy, listening to him talking. When he had drawn near 
her bed, she replied : 

" Of course not, of course not. Ah ! my big lad, so there 
you are. And so it's you who have got caught in the snow ; 
and that silly girl never told me so." 

Turning to her daughter, she said reproachfully : 

" Try and be polite, anyhow. Return to those ladies and 
gentlemen, show them some attention, so that they may not 
tell the company that we are no better than savages." 

Flore remained planted between Jacques and S^verine. 
She appeared to hesitate for an instant, asking herself if she 
should not obstinately remain there, in spite of her mother. 
But she reflected that she would see nothing; the presence 
of the invalid would prevent any familiarity between the 
other two; and she withdrew, after taking a long look at 
them. 

" What ! Aunt Phasie ! " exclaimed Jacques sadly ; " you 
have taken to your bed for good ? Then it's serious ? " 

She drew him towards her, forcing him even to seat himself 
at the edge of the mattress; and without troubling any 
further about the young woman, who had discreetly moved 
away, she proceeded to relieve herself in a very low voice. 

" Oh ! yes, serious ! It's a miracle if you find me alive. 
I wouldn't write to you, because such things can't be written. 
I've had a narrow escape; but now I am already better, 
and I believe I shall get over it again this time." 

He examined her, alarmed at the progress of the malady, 



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The Monomaniac 223 

and found she had not preserved a vestige of the handsome, 
healthy woman of former days. 

"Then you still suffer from your cramps and dizziness, my 
poor Aunt Phasie?" said he. 

She squeezed his hand fit to crush it, continuing in a still 
lower tone: 

"Just fancy, I caught him. You know, that do what I 
would, I could not find out how he managed to give me 
his drug. I didn't drink, I didn't eat anything he touched, 
and all the same, every night I had my inside afire. Well, 
he mixed it with the salt ! One night, I saw him ; and I 
was in the habit of putting salt on everything in quantities 
to make the food healthy ! " 

. Since Jacques had known Severine, he sometimes pondered 
in doubt over this story of slow and obstinate poisoning, 
as one thinks of the nightmare. In his turn he tenderly 
pressed the hands of the invalid, and sought to calm her. 

" Come, is all this possible ? To say such things you 
should really be quite sure ; and, besides, it drags on too 
long. Ah ! it's more likely an illness that the doctors do 
not understand ! " 

" An illness," she resumed, with a sneer ; " yes, an illness 
that he stuck into me ! As for the doctors, you are right ; 
two came here, who understood nothing, and who were not 
even of the same mind. I'll never allow another of such 
creatures to put a foot in this house again. Do you hear, he 
gave it me in the salt. I swear to you I saw him ! It's 
for my 1,000 frcs., the 1,000 frcs. papa left me. He says 
to himself, that when he has done away with me, he'll 
soon find them. But, as to that, I defy him. They are in 
a place where nobody will find them. Never, never! I 
may die, but I am at ease on that score. No one will ever 
have my 1,000 frcs. !" 

" But, Aunt Phasie," answered Jacques, " in your place, if 
I were so sure as all that, I should send for the gendarmes." 



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224 The Monomaniac 

She made a gesture of repugnance. 

" Oh ! no, not the gendarmes," said she. " This matter 
only concerns us. It is between him and me. I know that 
he wants to gobble me up ; and naturally I do not wish 
him to do it. So you see I have only to defend myself; 
not to be such a fool as I have been with his salt. Eh ! 
who would ever have thought it? An abortion like that, 
a little whipper-snapper of a man whom one could stuff into 
one's pocket, and who, in the long-run, would get the better 
of a big woman like me, if one let him have his own way 
with his teeth like those of a rat." 

She was seized with a little shiver, and breathed heavily 
before she could conclude. 

"No matter," said she at last, "he will be short of his 
reckoning again this time. I am getting better. I shall be 
on my legs before a fortnight. And he'll have to be very 
clever to catch me again. Ah ! yes, I shall be curious to 
see him do it. If he discovers a way to give me any more 
of his drug, he will decidedly be the stronger of the two ; 
and then, so much the worse for me. I shall kick the bucket. 
But I don't want to have any meddling between us ! " 

Jacques thought it must be her illness that caused her 
brain to be haunted by these sombre ideas ; and, to amuse 
her, he tried joking, when, all at once, she began trembling 
under the bedclothes. 

"Here he is," she whispered. "I can feel him coming 
whenever he approaches." 

And sure enough, Misard entered a few seconds afterwards. 
She had become livid, a prey to that indomitable fright 
which huge creatures feel in presence of the insect that preys 
upon them. For, notwithstanding her obstinate determination 
to defend herself single-handed, she felt an increasing terror 
of him that she would not confess. Misard cast a sharp 
look at her and the driver, from the threshold, and then, 
gave himself an air of not having noticed them side by side. 



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The Monomaniac 225 

With his expressionless eyes, his thin lips, his mild manner 
of a puny man, he was already showing great attention to 
S£verine. 

" I thought madam would perhaps like to take advantage 
of the opportunity, to have a look at her property. So I 
managed to slip away for a moment. If madam wishes 
I will accompany her." 

And as the young woman still refused, he continued in 
a doleful voice : 

" Madam was perhaps surprised in regard to the fruit. 
It was all wormeaten, and was really not worth packing up. 
Then we had a gale that did a lot of harm. Ah ! it's a pity 
madam cannot sell the place ! One gentleman came who 
wanted some repairs done. Anyhow, I am at the disposal 
of madam ; and madam may be sure that I replace her here, 
as if she were here herself." 

Then he insisted on giving her bread and pears, pears from 
his own garden, which were not wormeaten, and she accepted. 

As Misard crossed the kitchen he told the passengers that 
the work of clearing away the snow was proceeding, but it 
would take another four or five hours. It had struck midday, 
and there ensued more lamentation, for all were becoming 
very hungry. Flore had just declared that she would not have 
sufficient bread for everyone. But she had plenty of wine. 
She had brought ten quarts up from the cellar, and only a 
moment before, had set them in a line on the table. 

Then there were not enough glasses, and they had to drink 
by groups, the English lady with her two daughters, the old 
gentleman with his young wife. The latter had found a 
zealous, inventful groom in the young man from Havre, who 
watched over her well-being. He disappeared and returned 
with apples and a loaf which he had found in the woodhouse. 
Flore was angry, saying this was bread for her sick mother. 
But he had already commenced cutting it up, and handing 
pieces to the ladies, beginning with the young wife, who 

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226 The Monomaniac 

smiled at him amiably, feeling very much flattered at his 
attention. 

Her husband was not offended ; indeed, he no longer paid 
any attention to her, being engaged with the American in 
exalting the commercial customs of New York. The two 
English girls had never munched apples so heartily. Their 
mother, who felt very weary, was half asleep. Two ladies 
were seated on the ground before the hearth, overcome by 
waiting. Men who had gone out to smoke, in front of the 
house to kill a quarter of an hour, returned perishing and 
shivering with cold. Little by little the uneasy feeling 
increased, partly from hunger having only been half satisfied 
and partly from fatigue, augmented by impatience and absence 
of all comfort. The scene was assuming the aspect of a ship- 
wrecked camp, of the desolation of a band of civilised people, 
cast by the waves on a desert island. 

And as Misard, going backward and forward, left the door 
open, Aunt Phasie gazed on the picture from her bed of sick- 
ness. So these were the kind of people whom she had 
seen flash past, during close upon a year that she had been 
dragging herself from her mattress to her chair. It was now 
but rarely that she could go on to the siding. She passed 
her days and nights alone, riveted there, her eyes on the 
window, without any other company than those trains which 
flew by so swiftly. 

She had always complained of this outlandish place, where 
they never received a visit; and here was quite a small 
crowd come from the unknown. And only to think that 
among them — among those people in a hurry to get to their 
business — not one had the least idea of the thing that troubled 
her, of that filth which had been mixed with her salt ! She 
had taken that device to heart, and she asked herself how it 
was possible for a person to be guilty of such cunning rascality 
without anybody perceiving it. A sufficient multitude passed 
by them, thousands and thousands of people ; but they all 



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The Monomaniac 227 

dashed on, not one would have imagined that a murder was 
calmly being committed in this little, low-roofed dwelling, 
without any set out. And Aunt Phasie looked at one after 
the other of these persons, fallen as it were from the moon, 
reflecting that when people have their minds so occupied 
with other things, it is not surprising that they should walk 
into pools of mire, and not know it. 

" Are you going back there ? " Misard inquired of Jacques. 

" Yes, yes," replied the latter ; " I'm coming immediately." 

Misard went off closing the door. And Phasie, retaining 
the young man by the hand, whispered in his ear : 

"If I kick the bucket, you'll see what a face hell pull 
when he's unable to find the cash. That's what amuses me 
when I think of it I shall go off contented all the same." 

"And then, Aunt Phasie, it'll be lost for everybody," 
said Jacques. " Won't you leave it to your daughter ? " 

" To Flore ? For him to take it from her ? Ah ! no, for 
certain. Not even to you, my big lad, because you also 
are too stupid, he'd get some of it. To no one ; to the earth, 
where I shall go and join it ! " 

She was exhausted, and Jacques, having made her com- 
fortable in bed, calmed her by embracing her, and promising 
to return and see her again shortly. Then, as she seemed 
to be falling asleep, he passed behind SeVerine, who was 
still seated near the stove, raising his finger with a smile 
to caution her to be prudent. In a pretty, silent movement 
she threw back her head offering her lips, and he, bending 
over, pressed his mouth to them in a deep discreet kiss. 
Their eyes closed, and when the lids rose again it was to 
find Flore standing in the doorway gazing at them. 

"Has madam done with the bread?" she inquired in 
a hoarse voice. 

S^verine, confused and very much annoyed, stammered out : 

" Yes, yes. Thank you." 

For an instant Jacques fixed his flaming eyes on the girl. 



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228 The Monomaniac 

He hesitated, his lips trembling, as if he wanted to speak. 
Then, with a furious, threatening gesture, he made up his 
mind to leave. The door was slammed violently behind him. 

Flore remained erect, presenting the tall stature of a warrior 
virgin, coifed with a heavy helmet of fair hair. So she had 
not been deceived by the anguish she had felt each Friday, at 
the sight of this lady in the train he drove. She was at last 
in possession of the absolute certainty she had been seeking 
since she held them there together. The man she was in 
love with, would never love her. It was this slim woman, 
this insignificant creature that he had chosen; and her 
regret at having refused him a kiss that night when he had 
brutally attempted to take one, touched her so keenly that 
she would have sobbed. For, according to her simple 
reasoning, it would have been she whom he would have 
embraced now, had she kissed him before the other. Where 
could she find him alone at this hour, to cast herself on 
his neck and cry, "Take me, I was stupid, because I did 
not know ! " 

But, in her impotence, she felt a rage rising within her 
against the frail creature seated there, uneasy and stammering. 
With one clasp of her arms, hard as those of a wrestler, she 
could stifle her like a little bird. Why did she hesitate to 
do so ? She vowed she would be revenged, nevertheless, 
being aware of things connected with this rival that would 
send her to prison, she whom they permitted to remain at 
liberty; and tortured by jealousy, bursting with anger, she 
began clearing away the remainder of the bread and pears 
with the hasty movements of a beautiful untamed girl. 

" As madam will take no more, I'll give this to the others," 
said she. 

Three o'clock struck, then four o'clock. The time dragged 
on, immeasurably long, amidst increasing lassitude and irritation. 
Here was livid night returning to the vast expanse of white 
country. Every ten minutes the men who went out to see 



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The Monomaniac 229 

from a distance how the work was proceeding, returned with 
the information that the engine did not appear to be cleared. 
Even the two English girls began weeping in a fit of enervation. 
In a corner, the pretty dark lady had fallen asleep against 
the shoulder of the young man from Havre, a circumstance 
the elderly husband did not even notice, amid the general 
abandonment that had swept away decorum. 

The room was becoming cold. Everyone was shivering, 
and not a soul thought of throwing some wood on the fire. 
The American took himself off, thinking he would feel much 
more comfortable stretched out on one of the seats in a 
carriage. That was now the general idea. Everyone ex- 
pressed regret : they should have remained where they were. 
Anyhow, had they done so, they would never have been 
devoured by the anxiety to learn what was going on there. 
It was necessary to restrain the English lady, who also spoke 
of regaining her compartment, and going to bed there. When 
they placed a candle on a corner of the table, to light the 
people in this dark kitchen, the feeling of discouragement 
became intense, and everyone gave way to dull despair. 

The removal of the snow from the line was nevertheless 
coming to an end ; and while the troop of soldiers, who had 
set the engine free, were clearing the metals in front, the 
driver and fireman had ascended to their post. 

Jacques, observing that the snow had at last ceased, regained 
confidence. Ozil, the pointsman, had told him positively, 
that on the other side of the tunnel, in the neighbourhood 
of Malaunay, the state of the line was much better. But he 
questioned him again. 

" You came through the tunnel on foot, and were able to 
enter, and issue from it without any difficulty ? " said he. 

"When I keep on telling you so," answered the other. 
" You will get through, take my word for it" 

Cabuche, who had been working with the energy of a good 
giant, was already retiring in his timid, shy manner, which 



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230 The Monomaniac 

his recent difference with the judicial authorities had only 
increased ; and it became necessary for Jacques to call to him. 

"I say, comrade," he shouted, "hand me those shovels 
that belong to us, over there against the slope, so that if we 
happen to want them we shall be able to find them again." 

And when the quarryman had rendered him this last 
service he gave him a hearty shake of the hand, to show 
him that he felt esteem for him in spite of all, having 
seen him at work. 

" You are a good fellow, you are," said he. 

This mark of friendship agitated Cabuche in an extraordinary 
manner. 

"Thank you," he answered simply, stifling his tears. 

Misard, who had made friends with him again, after 
accusing him before the examining-magistrate, gave his 
approval with an inclination of the head, pinching his lips 
into a slight smile. He had long since ceased working, and, 
with his hands in his pockets, stood gazing at the train with 
a bilious look, as if waiting to see whether he would not 
be able to pick up something lost between the wheels. 

At length, the headguard had just decided with Jacques 
that an attempt could be made to go on again, when Pecqueux, 
who had got down on to the line, called the driver. 

" Come and look ! " said he. " One of the cylinders has 
had a shock." 

Jacques, approaching him, also bent down. He had 
already discovered, on examining La Lison carefully, that 
it had received a blow at the place indicated. In clearing 
the engine, the workmen had ascertained that some oak 
sleepers, left at the bottom of the slope by the platelayers, 
had been shifted by the action of the snow and wind, so 
that they rested on the rails ; and the stoppage, even, must 
have been partly due to this obstruction, for the locomotive 
had run against the sleepers. They could see the scratch 
on the box of the cylinder, and the piston it enclosed seemed 



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The Monomaniac 231 

slightly bent; but that was all the visible harm, and the 
fears of the driver were at first removed. Perhaps there 
existed serious interior injuries; nothing is more delicate 
than the complicated mechanism of the slide valves, where 
beats the heart, the living spirit of the machine. 

Jacques got up again, blew the whistle, and opened the 
regulator to feel the articulations of La Lison. It took a 
long time to move, like a person bruised by a fall, who has 
difficulty in recovering the use of his limbs. At last, with 
a painful puff, it started, gave a few turns of the wheels still 
dizzy and ponderous. It would do, it could move, and would 
perform the journey. Only Jacques tossed his head, for he, 
who knefw the locomotive thoroughly, had just felt something 
singular in his hand — something that had undergone a change, 
that had grown old, that had been touched somewhere with 
a mortal blow. It must have got this in the snow, cut to 
the heart, a death chill, like those strongly built young women 
who fall into a decline through having returned home one 
night, from a ball, in icy cold rain. 

Again Jacques blew the whistle, after Pecqueux had opened 
the exhaust pipe. The two guards were at their posts. 
Mizard, Ozil, and Cabuche, had got on the footboard of the 
leading van; and the train slowly issued from the cutting 
between the soldiers, armed with their shovels, who had 
stood back to right and left along the base of the slopes. 
Then it stopped before the house of the gatekeeper to pick 
up the passengers. 

Flore was there, in front. Ozil and Cabuche joined her 
and remained at her side ; while Misard was now assiduous 
in his attentions, greeting the ladies and gentlemen who left 
his dwelling, and collecting the silver pieces. So at last 
the deliverance had come. But they had waited too long. 
All these people were shivering with cold, dying of hunger 
and exhaustion. The English lady led off her two daughters, 
who were half asleep ; the young man from Havre got into 



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23 2 The Monomaniac 

the same compartment as the pretty dark lady, who looked 
very languid, and made himself most agreeable to the 
nusband. And what with the slush caused by the trampled- 
down snow, the pushing, the free and easy manners, any- 
one might almost have imagined himself present at the 
entraining of a troop in flight, who had lost even the instinct 
of decent behaviour. 

For an instant, Aunt Phasie appeared at the window of 
her room. Curiosity had bought her from her mattress, and 
she had dragged herself there to see. Her great hollow 
eyes of sickness watched this unknown crowd, these passersby 
of the world on the move, whom she would never look on 
again, who were brought there and borne away by the tempest. 

S^verine left the house the last. Turning her head she 
smiled at Jacques, who leant over to follow her to her 
carriage with his eyes. And Flore, who was on the lookout 
for them, again turned pale at this tranquil exchange of 
tenderness. Abruptly she drew nearer to Ozil, whom hitherto 
she had repelled, as if now, in her hatred, she felt the need 
of a man. 

The headguard gave the signal. La Lison answered with 
a plaintive whistle ; and Jacques this time started off, not 
to stop again before Rouen. It was six o'clock. Night was 
completing its descent from the black sky on to the white 
earth ; but a pale, and frightfully melancholy reflex remained 
nearly level with the ground, lighting up the desolation of 
the ravaged country. And, in this uncertain glimmeT, the 
house of La Croix-de-Maufras rose up aslant, more dila- 
pidated than ever, and all black in the midst of the snow, 
with the notice nailed to the shut-up front, "For Sale." 



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CHAPTER VIII 

THE train did not reach the Paris terminus before 10.40 
at night. There had been a stoppage of twenty minutes 
at Rouen to give the passengers time to dine ; and S^verine 
had hastened to telegraph to her husband that she would 
only return to Havre by the express on the following night. 

As they left Mantes, Pecqueux had an idea. Mother 
Victoire, his wife, had been at the hospital for a week, laid 
up with a severely sprained ankle occasioned by a fall ; 
and, as he could find a bed at the house of some friends, 
he desired to offer their room to Madame Roubaud. She 
would be much more comfortable than at a hotel in the 
neighbourhood, and could remain there until the following 
night as if she were at home. And, when she approached 
the locomotive, among the swarm of passengers who at last 
left the carriages under the marquee, Jacques advised her 
to accept, at the same time holding out to her the key which 
the fireman had given him. But Severine hesitated. 

"No, no," said she, "Fve a cousin. She will make me 
up a bed." 

Jacques looked at her so earnestly that she ended by 
taking the key ; while he, bending forward, whispered : 

"Wait for me." 

Severine had only to take a few steps up the Rue 
d'Amsterdam, and turn into the Impasse, or Blind Alley 
of the same name. But the snow was so slippery that she 
had to walk very cautiously. She had the good fortune to 
find the door of the house still open, and ascended the 

233 



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234 The Monomaniac 

staircase without even being seen by the portress, who was 
deep in a game of dominoes with a neighbour. On the 
fifth floor she opened the door and closed it so softly that 
certainly none of the neighbours could suspect her there. 
Crossing the landing on the floor below, she had very 
distinctly heard laughter and singing at the Dauvergnes ; 
doubtless one of the small receptions of the two sisters, 
who invited their friends to musical evenings once a week. 

And now that S£verine had closed the door, and found 
herself in the oppressive darkness of the room, she could 
still distinguish the sound of the lively gaiety of all this 
youth coming through the boards. For a moment the 
obscurity seemed to her complete; and she started when 
the cuckoo clock, amidst the gloom, began to ring out eleven 
with deep strokes — a sound she recognised. Then her eyes 
became accustomed to the dimness of the apartment. The 
two windows stood out in two pale squares, lighting the 
ceiling with the reflex of the snow. She was already begin- 
ning to find her way about, seeking for the matches on the 
sideboard in a corner where she recollected having seen 
them. But she had more difficulty in finding a candle. 
At last she discovered the end of one at the back of a 
drawer; and having put a lucifer to it the room was lit up. 
At once she cast a rapid, anxious glance around, as if to 
make sure that she was quite alone. She recognised every- 
thing : the round table where she had lunched with her 
husband; the bed draped with red cotton material, beside 
which he had knocked her down with a blow from his fist. 
It was there sure enough, nothing had been changed in the 
room during her absence of six months. 

SeVerine slowly removed her hat. But, as she was also 
about to set aside her cloak, she shivered. It was as cold as 
ice in this room. In a small box near the stove, were coal 
and firewood. Immediately, without taking off her wraps, 
she began to light the fire. This occupation amused her, 



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The Monomaniac 235 

serving as a diversion from the uneasiness she had at first 
experienced. When the stove began to draw, she busied 
herself with other household duties, arranging the chairs as 
it pleased her to see them, looking out clean sheets, and 
making the bed again, which caused her a deal of trouble, as 
it was unusually wide. She felt annoyed to find nothing to 
eat or drink in the sideboard. Doubtless Pecqueux had made 
a clean sweep of everything during the three days he had been 
master there. It was the same in regard to the light, there 
being only this single bit of candle. 

And now, feeling very warm and lively, she stood in the 
middle of the room glancing round to make sure that every- 
thing was in order. Then, just as she was beginning to feel 
astonished that Jacques had not yet arrived, a whistle drew 
her to one of the windows. It was the 11.20 through train 
to Havre that was leaving. Below, the vast expanse, the 
trench extending from the station to the Batigtiolles tunnel, 
appeared one sheet of snow where naught could be dis- 
tinguished save the fan of metals with its black branches. 
The engines and carriages on the sidings formed white heaps, 
looking as if they rested beneath coverings of ermine. And 
between the immaculate glass of the great marquees and the 
ironwork of the Pont de PEurope bordered with frets, the 
houses in the Rue de Rome opposite, in spite of the darkness, 
could be seen jumbled together in a tint of dirty yellow. 

The through train for Havre went along, crawling and 
sombre, its front lamp boring the obscurity with a bright 
flame; and Severine watched it vanish under the bridge, 
reddening the snow with its three back lights. On turning 
from the window she gave another brief shiver — was she 
really quite alone ? She seemed to feel a warm breath heating 
the back of her neck, a brutal blow grazing her skin through 
her clothes. Her widely opened eyes again looked round. 
No, no one. 

What could Jacques be after, to remain so long as this? 



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236 The Monomaniac 

Another ten minutes passed. A slight scraping, a sound of 
finger-nails scratching against wood, alarmed her. Then she 
understood, and hastened to open the door. It was Jacques 
with a bottle of Malaga and a cake. 

In an outburst of tenderness she threw her arms round 
his neck, rippling with laughter. 

" Oh ! you pet of a man to have thought to bring some- 
thing," she exclaimed. 

But he quickly silenced her. 

" Hush ! hush ! " he whispered. 

And she, fancying he might be pursued by the portress, 
lowered her voice. No ; as he was about to ring, he had the 
luck to see the door open to let out a lady and her daughter, 
who had no doubt come down from the Dauvergnes ; and 
he had been able to come up unperceived. Only there, on 
the landing, through the door standing ajar, he had just 
caught sight of the newsvendor woman who was finishing a 
little washing in a basin. ^ 

" Let us make as little noise as possible," said he. " Speak 
low." 

Severine replied by squeezing him passionately in her arms 
and covering his face with silent kisses. This game of mystery, 
speaking no louder than a whisper, diverted her. 

" Yes, yes," she said ; " you shall see : we will be as quiet 
as two little mice." 

She took all kinds of precautions in laying the table : two 
plates, two glasses, two knives, stopping with a desire to burst 
out laughing when one article, set down too hastily, rang against 
another. 

Jacques, who was watching her, also became amused. 

" I thought you would be hungry," said he in a low voice. 

" Why, I am famished ! " she answered. " We dined so 
badly at Rouen ! " 

"Well, then, let me run down and fetch a fowl," he 
suggested. 



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The Monomaniac 237 

" Ah ! no," said she ; " the portress might not let you come 
up again ! No, no, the cake will do." 

They immediately seated themselves side by side, almost 
on the same chair; and the cake was divided and eaten 
amid the frolics of sweethearts. She said she was thirsty, 
and swallowed two glasses of Malaga, one after the other, 
which flushed her cheeks. The stove, reddening behind 
their backs, thrilled them with warmth. But, as he was 
kissing her on the neck too loudly, she, in her turn, 
stopped him. 

" Hush ! hush ! " she whispered. 

She made him a sign o listen; and, in the silence, they 
distinguished a swaying movement to the accompaniment of 
music, ascending from the Dauvergnes; these young ladies 
had just arranged a hop. Hard by, the newsvendor was 
throwing the soapy water from her basin down the sink on 
the landing. She shut her door. The dancing downstairs 
hajf for a moment ceased ; and outside, beneath the window, 
nothing could be heard but a dull rumble, stifled by the 
snow — the departure of a train, which seemed weeping with 
low whistles. 

"An Auteuil train," murmured Jacques. "Ten minutes 
to twelve." 

She made no answer, being absorbed by thoughts of the 
past, in her fever of happiness, living over again the hours 
she had passed there with her husband. Was this not the 
bygone lunch continuing with the cake, eaten on the same 
table, amid the same sounds ? She became more and more 
excited, recollections flowed fast upon her. Never had she 
experienced such a burning necessity to tell her sweetheart 
everything, to deliver herself up to him completely. She 
felt, as it were, the physical desire to do so. It seemed to 
her that she would belong to him more absolutely were she 
to make her confession in his ear. Past events came vividly 
to her mind. Her husband was there. She turned her head, 



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238 The Monomaniac 

imagining she had just seen his short, hirsute hand pass over 
her shoulder to grasp the knife. 

" Hullo ! the candle is going out," said Jacques. 

She shrugged her shoulders, as if to say she did not care. 
Then, stifling a laugh, she whispered : 

" I've been good, eh ? " 

" Oh ! yes ! " he answered. " No one has heard us. We've 
been exactly like two little mice." 

They said no more. The room was in darkness. Barely 
could the pale squares of glass be distinguished at the two 
windows; but on the ceiling appeared a ray from the stove, 
forming a round crimson spot. Both gazed at it with wide 
open eyes. The music had ceased. There came a slamming 
of doors ; and then all the house fell into the peacefulness of 
heavy slumber. The train from Caen, arriving below, shook 
the turn-tables with dull shocks that barely reached them, so 
far did they seem away. 

And now, Severine again felt the desire to make her con- 
fession. She had been tormented by this feeling for weeks. 
The round spot on the ceiling increased in size, appearing to 
spread out like a spurt of blood. She had a fit of hallucination 
by looking at it. The objects round the bedstead took voices, 
relating the story aloud. She felt the words rising to her lips 
in the nervous wave passing through her frame. How delightful 
it would be to have nothing hidden, to confide in him entirely ! 

" You know, darling " she began. 

Jacques, who had also been steadily watching the red spot, 
understood what she was about to say. He had observed 
her increasing uneasiness in regard to this obscure, hideous 
subject which was present in both their minds, although they 
never alluded to it. Hitherto he had prevented her speaking, 
dreading the precursory shiver of his former complaint, 
trembling lest their affection might suffer if they were to talk 
of blood together. But, on this occasion, he did not feel the 
strength to bend his head, and seal her lips with a kiss. He 



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The Monomaniac 239 

thought it settled, that she would say all. And so, he was 
relieved of his anxiety, when, appearing to become troubled, 
she hesitated, then shrank back, and observed : 

" You know, darling, my husband suspects we are in love 
with one another." 

At the last second, in spite of herself, it was the recollection 
of what had passed the night before at Havre, that came to 
her lips, instead of the confession. 

"Oh! Do you think so?" he murmured incredulous. 
" He seems so nice. He gave me his hand again this 
morning." 

" I assure you he knows," she replied. " I have the proof." 

S^verine paused. Then, after a quivering meditation, she 
exclaimed : 

" Oh ! I hate him ! I hate him ! " 

Jacques was surprised. He had no ill-feeling against 
Roubaud. 

"Indeed! Why is that?" he inquired "He does not 
interfere with us ! " 

Without replying, she repeated : 

" I hate him ! The mere idea of his being beside ma is a 
torture. Ah ! If I could, I would run away, I would remain 
with you ! " 

Jacques pressed her to him. Then, after another pause, 
she resumed : 

" But you do not know, darling " 

The confession was on her lips again, fatally, inevitably. 
And this time he felt certain that nothing in the world would 
delay it. Not a sound could be heard in the house. The 
newsvendor even must have been in deep slumber. Outside, 
Paris covered with snow was wrapped in silence. Not a 
rumble of a vehicle could be heard in the streets. The last 
train for Havre, which had left at twenty minutes after mid- 
night, seemed to have borne away the final vestige of life in 
the station. The stove had ceased roaring. The fire burning 



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240 The Monomaniac 

to ashes, gave fresh vigour to the red spot circling on the 
ceiling like a terrified eye. It was so warm that a heavy, 
stifling mist seemed to weigh down on them. 

" Darling, you do not know " she repeated. 

Then he also spoke, unable to restrain himself any longer : 

" Yes, yes, I know," said he. 

"No; you may think you do, but you cannot know," she 
answered. 

" I know that he did it for the legacy," he retorted. 

She made a movement, and gave an involuntary little 
nervous laugh. 

" Ah ! bosh ; the legacy ! " she remarked. 

And, in a very low voice, so low that a moth grazing the 
window panes, would have made a louder sound, she related 
her childhood at the house of the sister of President 
Grandmorin. Gaining courage as she proceeded, she continued 
in her low tone : 

" Just fancy, it was here in this room, last February. You 
recollect, at the time when he had his quarrel with the sub- 
prefect. We had lunched very nicely — just as we have supped 
now — there, on that table. Naturally, he knew nothing, I 
had not gone out of my way to relate the story. But all 
of a sudden, about a ring, an old present, about nothing, I 
know not how it occurred, he understood everything. Ah ! 
my darling! No, no; you cannot imagine how he treated 
me!" 

After a shudder, she resumed : 

"With a blow from his fist, he knocked me to the ground. 
And then he dragged me along by the hair. Next he 
raised his heel above my face, as if he would crush it. No ; 
as long as I live, I shall never forget that ! After this came 
more blows, to force me to answer his questions. No doubt 
he loved me. He must have been very much pained when 
he heard all he made me tell him ; and I confess that it 
would have been more straightforward on my part to have 



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The Monomaniac 241 

warned him before our marriage. Only, you must understand 
that this intrigue was old and forgotten. No one but a positive 
savage would have become so mad with jealousy. You, your- 
self, my darling, will you cease to love me on account of 
what you now know ? " 

Jacques had not moved. He sat inert, reflecting. He felt 
very much surprised. Never had he a suspicion of such a 
story. How everything became complicated, when the will 
sufficed to account for the crime! But he preferred that 
matters should be as they were. The certainty that the couple 
had not killed for money, relieved him of a feeling of contempt. 

" I ! cease to love you. Why ? " he inquired. " I do not 
care a fig about your past It does not concern me." 

After a silence, he added: 

" And then, what about the old man ? " 

In a very low tone, with an effort of all her being, she 
confessed. 

"Yes; we killed him," she answered "He made me 
write to the President to leave by the express, at the same 
time as we did, and not to show himself until he reached 
Rouen. I remained trembling in my corner, distracted at 
the thought of the woe into which we were plunging. 
Opposite me sat a woman in black, who said nothing, and 
who gave me a great fright. I could not even look at her. 
I imagined she could distinctly read in our brains what 
was passing there, that she knew very well what we meant 
to do. It was thus that the two hours were spent from 
Paris to Rouen. I did not utter one word I did not 
move, but closed my eyes to make believe I was asleep. I 
felt him beside me, motionless also ; and what terrified me 
was my knowledge of the terrible things that were rolling 
in his head, without being able to make an exact guess of 
what he had resolved to do. Ah! what a journey, with 
that whirling flood of thoughts, amidst the whistling of the 
locomotive, and the jolting, and the thunder of the wheels ! " 

16 

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242 The Monomaniac 

"But, as you were not in the same compartment, how 
were you able to kill him ? " inquired Jacques. 

"Wait a minute, and you will understand," answered 
Severine. " It was all arranged by my husband ; but if the 
plan proved successful, it was entirely due to chance. There 
was a stoppage of ten minutes at Rouen. We got down, 
and he compelled me to walk with him to the coupe* occupied 
by the President, like persons who were stretching their 
legs. And there, seeing M. Grandmorin at the door, he 
affected surprise, as if unaware of his being in the train. 
On the platform there was a crush, a stream of people forced 
their way into the second-class carriages all going to Havre, 
where there was to be a fete on the morrow. 

"When they began to close the doors, the President 
invited us into his compartment. I hesitated, mentioning 
our valise; but he cried out that there was no fear of any- 
one taking it, and that we could return to our carriage at 
Barentin, as he would be getting down there. At one moment 
my husband, who was anxious, seemed as if he wanted to 
run and fetch the valise; but at that same minute, the 
guard whistled, and Roubaud, making up his mind, pushed 
me into the coupe, got in after me, closed the door, and 
put up the glass. How it happened that we were not 
perceived, I have never been able to comprehend ! A number 
of persons were running, the railway officials appeared to 
lose their heads, finally not a single witness came forward 
who had seen anything. At last, the train slowly left the 
station." 

She paused a few seconds, unconsciously living the scene 
over again, and then resumed: 

" Ah ! during the first moments in that coupe\ as I felt the 
ground flying beneath me, I was quite dizzy. At the com- 
mencement, I thought of nothing but our valise : how were 
we to recover it ? And would it not betray us if we left it 
where it was ? The whole thing seemed to me stupid, devoid 



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The Monomaniac 243 

of reason, like a murder dreamed of by a child, under the 
influence of nightmare, which anyone must be mad to think 
of putting into execution. We should be arrested next day, 
and convicted. But I sought to calm myself with the 
reflection that my husband would shrink from the crime, that 
it would not take place, that it could not. And yet, at the 
mere sight of him chatting with the President, I under- 
stood that his resolution remained as immutable as it was 
ferocious. 

" Still, he was quite calm. He even talked merrily after 
his usual manner; and it must have been in his intelligible 
look alone, which ever and anon rested on me, that I read his 
obstinate determination. He meant to kill him a mile farther 
on, perhaps two, at the exact place he had settled in his 
mind, and as to which I was in ignorance. This was certain. 
One could even see it glittering in the tranquil glances which 
he cast upon the other who presently would be no more. 
I said nothing, feeling a violent interior trepidation, which I 
exerted myself to conceal by smiling when either of them 
looked at me. How was it that I never even thought of 
preventing all this ? It was only later on, when I sought to 
understand my attitude, that I felt astonished I did not run to 
the door and shout out, or that I did not pull the alarm bell. 
At that time I was as If paralysed, I felt myself radically 
powerless. When I only think that I have not the courage 
to bleed a fowl ! Oh ! what I suffered on that hideous night ! 
Oh ! the frightful horror that howled within me ! " 

" But tell me," said Jacques, " did you help him to kill 
the old fellow?" 

"I was in a corner," she continued without answering. 
"My husband sat between me and the President, who 
occupied the other corner. They chatted together about the 
forthcoming elections. From time to time I noticed my 
husband bend forward, and cast a glance outside to find out 
where we were, as if impatient. Each time he acted thus, 



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244 The Monomaniac 

I followed his eyes, and also ascertained how far we had 
travelled. The night was not very dark, the black masses of 
trees could be seen filing past with furious rapidity. And 
there was always that thunder of wheels, such as I had never 
heard before, a frightful tumult of enraged and moaning voices, 
a lugubrious wail of animals howling at death ! The train 
flew along at full speed. Suddenly there came flashes of 
light, and the reverberating echo of the locomotive and 
carriages passing betwixt the buildings of a station. We were 
at Maromme, already two leagues and a half from Rouen. 
Malaunay would be next, and then Barentin. 

"Where would the thing happen? Did he intend waiting 
until the last minute ? I was no longer conscious of time 
or distances. I abandoned myself like the stone that falls, 
to this deafening downfall in the gloom, when, on passing 
through Malaunay, I all at once understood : the deed would 
be done in the tunnel, less than a mile farther on. I turned 
towards my husband. Our eyes met: yes; in the tunnel. 
Two minutes more. The train flew along. We passed the 
Dieppe embranchment, where I noticed the pointsman at 
his post At this spot are some hills, and there I imagined 
I could distinctly see men with their arms raised, loading 
us with imprecations. Then, the engine gave a long whistle. 
We were at the entrance to the tunnel. And when the 
train plunged into it, oh ! how that low-vaulted roof re- 
sounded ! You know, those sounds of an upheaval of iron, 
similar to a hammer striking on an anvil, and which I, in 
this second or two of craziness, transformed into the rumble 
of thunder." 

She shivered, and broke off to say, in a voice that had 
changed, and was almost merry: 

"Isn't it stupid, eh! darling, to still feel the cold in 
the marrow of one's bones? And yet, I'm warm enough. 
Besides, you know there is nothing whatever to fear. The 
case is shelved, without counting that the bigwigs connected 



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The Monomaniac 245 

with the government are even less anxious than ourselves 
to throw light on it. Oh ! I saw through it all, and am 
quite at ease ! " 

Then she added, without seeking to conceal her 
merriment : 

"As for you, you can boast of having given us a rare 
fright! But tell me, I have often wondered — what was it 
you actually did see?" 

" What I told the magistrate, nothing more," he answered. 
" One man murdering another. You two behaved so strangely 
with me that you aroused my suspicions. At one moment 
I seemed to recognise your husband. It was only later on 
though, that I became absolutely certain " 

She gaily interrupted him: 

"Yes, in the square. The day when I told you no. 
Do you remember? The first time we were alone in Paris 
together. How peculiar it was! I told you it was not 
us, and knew perfectly well that you thought the contrary. 
It was as if I had told you all about it, was it not ? Oh ! 
darling, I have often thought of that conversation, and I 
really believe it is since that day I love you." 

After a pause, she resumed the story of the crime : 

"The train flew through the tunnel, which is very long. 
It takes three minutes to reach the end, as you know. To 
me it seemed like an hour. The President had ceased 
talking, in consequence of the deafening clatter of clashing 
iron. And my husband at this last moment must have 
lost courage, for he still remained motionless. Only, in the 
dancing light of the lamp, I noticed his ears become violet. 
Was he going to wait until we were again in the open 
country? The crime seemed to me so fatally inevitable, 
that, henceforth, I had but one desire : to be no longer 
subjected to this torture of waiting, to have it all over. Why 
on earth did he not kill him, as the thing had to be done ? 
I would have taken the knife and settled the matter myself, 



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246 The Monomaniac 

I was so exasperated with fear and suffering. He looked at 
me. No doubt he read my thoughts on my face. For all 
of a sudden, he fell upon the President, who had turned 
to glance through the glass at the door, grasping him by 
the shoulders. 

"M. Grandmorin, in a scare, instinctively shook himself 
free, and stretched out his arm towards the alarm knob 
just above his head. He managed to graze it, but was 
seized again by my husband, and thrown down on the seat 
with such violence that he found himself doubled up. His 
open mouth uttered frantic yells, in stupefaction and terror, 
which were drowned in the uproar of the train ; while I 
heard my husband distinctly repeating the word : Beast ! 
beast ! beast ! in a passionate hiss. But the noise subsided, 
the train left the tunnel, the pale country appeared once 
more with the dark trees filing past. I had remained stiffened 
in my corner, pressing against the back of the coup£ as far 
off as possible. 

" How long did the struggle last ? Barely a few seconds. 
And yet it seemed to me it would never end, that all the 
passengers were now listening to the cries, that the trees 
saw us. My husband, holding the open knife in his hand, 
could not strike the blow, being driven back, staggering on 
the floor of the carriage, by the kicks of his victim. He 
almost fell to his knees; and the train flew on, carrying us 
along full speed ; while the locomotive whistled as we 
approached the level-crossing at La Croix-de-Maufras. 

" Without me being able to recall afterwards how the 
thing occurred, I know it was then that I threw myself on 
the legs of the struggling man. Yes, I let myself fall like 
a bundle, crushing his two lower limbs with all my weight, 
so that he was unable to move them any more. And if 
I saw nothing, I felt it all : the shock of the knife in the 
throat, the long quivering of the body, and then death, 
which came with three hiccups, with a sound like the 



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The Monomaniac 247 

running-down of a broken clock. Oh ! that quivering fit of 
agony ! I still feel the echo of it in my limbs ! " 

Jacques, eager for details, wanted to interrupt her with 
questions. But she was now in a hurry to finish. 

"No; wait," said she. "As I rose from my seat we 
flashed past La Croix-de-Maufras. I distinctly perceived 
the front of the house with the shutters closed, and then 
the box of the gatekeeper. Another three miles, five minutes 
at the most, before reaching Barentin. The corpse was 
doubled-up on the seat, the blood running from it forming 
a large pool. And my husband, standing erect, besotted 
as if with drink, reeling in the swaying of the train, gazed 
on his victim as he wiped the knife with his pocket hand- 
kerchief. This lasted a minute, without either of us doing 
anything for our safety. If we kept this corpse with us, if 
we remained there, everything perhaps would be discovered 
when the train stopped at Barentin. 

"But my husband had put the knife in his pocket. He 
seemed to wake up. I saw him search the clothes of the 
dead man, take his watch, his money, all he could find ; and, 
opening the door, he did his utmost to thrust the body out 
on the line without taking it in his arms, being afraid of the 
blood. 'Assist me,' said he; 'push at the same time as I 
do ! ' I did not even attempt to try, my limbs were without 
feeling. With an oath he repeated, ' Will you push with me ? ' 

"The head, which had gone out first, hung down to the 
step; while the trunk, rolled into a ball, would not pass. 
And the train flew on. At last, in response to a stronger 
effort, the corpse turned over, and disappeared amidst the 
thunder of the wheels. ' Ah ! the beast ; so it is all over ! ' 
said my husband. Then, picking up the rug, he threw that 
out as well. There were now only us two standing before 
the pool of blood on the seat, where we dare not sit down. 
The open door continued beating backward and forward ; 
and broken down and bewildered as I was, I did not at first 



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248 The Monomaniac 

understand what my husband was doing, when I saw him 
get out, and in his turn disappear. 

"But he returned. 'Come, quick, follow me,' said he, 
' unless you want them to cut our heads off ! ' I did not 
move. He became impatient ' Come on,' he repeated with 
an oath, 'our compartment is empty.' Our compartment 
empty ! Then he had been there ? Was he quite certain 
that the woman in black, who did not speak, whom one 
could not see, was he quite certain that she had not remained 
in a corner? 'If you don't come, I'll throw you on the 
line like the other one!' he threatened. He had entered 
the carriage, and pushed me as a brute, half mad. I found 
myself outside on the step, with my two hands clinging to 
the brass rail. Leaving the coup£ after me, he carefully 
closed the door. ' Go on, go on ! ' said he. But I did 
not dare. I stood there, borne along in the whirling flight 
of the train, beaten by the wind which was blowing a gale. 
My hair came unbound, and I thought my stiffened fingers 
would lose their hold on the rail. 'Go on!' he exclaimed 
with another oath. He continued pushing me, and I had 
to advance, hand over hand, keeping close to the carriages, 
with my skirt and petticoats blowing about and embarrassing 
the action of my lower limbs. Already, in the distance, 
after a curve, one could see the lights of the Barentin station. 
The engine began to whistle. ' Go on ! ' repeated my husband 
still swearing at me. 

" Oh ! that infernal riot, that violent vacillation amidst 
which I walked ! It seemed as if I had been caught in a 
storm that swept me along like a straw, to cast me against 
a wall. The country flew behind my back, the trees followed 
me in a furious gallop, turning over and over, twisted, each 
uttering a short moan as it passed. When I came to the 
end of the carriage, and had to take a stride to reach the 
footboard of the next, and grasp the other rod, I stopped, 
having lost all courage. Never should I have the strength 



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The Monomaniac 249 

to do it * Go on,' said my husband, accompanying the words 
with his usual imprecation. He was behind, he gave me a 
push, and I closed my eyes. I know not how it was I 
continued to advance. Possibly by the force of instinct, as 
an animal who has planted his claws into something, and 
means not to fall. How was it, too, that nobody saw us? 
We passed before three carriages, one of which was a second- 
class carriage, completely crammed. I remember seeing the 
heads of the passengers ranged in a line, in the light of the 
lamp. I believe I should recognise them if I were to meet 
them one of these days. There was a stout man with red 
whiskers, and I particularly recollect two young girls who 
were leaning forward laughing. 

" 'Go on! Go on!' exclaimed my husband with two 
frightful oaths. And I hardly remember what followed. The 
lights at Barentin were drawing near, the locomotive whistled. 
My last sensation was one of being dragged along, carried 
anyhow, caught up by the hair. My husband must have 
grasped hold of me, opened the door over my shoulder, and 
thrown me into the compartment. I was reclining breathless 
and half fainting in a corner when we stopped ; and, without 
making a movement, I heard my husband exchange a few 
words with the station-master. Then, when the train went 
on again, he sank down on the seat, exhausted also. Between 
Barentin and Havre neither of us said a word. Oh ! I hate 
him! I hate him, for all those abominations he made me 
suffer ! " 

" And so you sank down on his legs, and felt him dying ? " 
inquired Jacques. 

The unknown was being revealed to him. A ferocious 
wave ascended from his inside, filling his head with a crimson 
vision. His curiosity about the murder returned. 

"And then, the knife, you felt the knife go in?" he 
continued. 

" Yes, with a thud," she answered. 



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250 The Monomaniac 

" Ah ! a thud," said he, "not a rip ; you are sure of that ? " 

" No, no," she replied ; " nothing but a shock." 

"And then, he quivered, eh ?" he suggested. 

"Yes; he gave three twitches from top to toe, and they 
lasted so long that I even felt them in his feet," she said. 

"And those twitches stiffened him, did they not?" he 
persisted. 

" Yes," she answered. " The first was very long, the other 
two weaker. 

" And then he died ? " he continued. " And what effect did 
it have on you, when you felt him expire under the knife ? " 

" On me ? Oh ! I don't know," she said. 

" You don't know ! Why tell stories ? " he asked her. 
" Describe to me, describe to me your feeling, quite frankly. 
Was it pain ? " 

" No, no, not pain," said she. 

" Pleasure ? " he inquired. 

" Pleasure ! " she answered, " Ah ! no, not pleasure ! " 

" What then, my love ? " he urged. " I implore you to tell 
me all. If you only knew Tell me what one feels." 

" Good heavens ! " she exclaimed. " How is it possible to 
describe it ? It is frightful. You are borne away. Oh ! so 
far, so far ! I lived longer in that one minute than in all 
my previous life." 

The crimson reflex had disappeared from the ceiling, and 
the fire had died out. The room became cooler in the intense 
cold outside. Not a sound ascended from Paris, padded with 
snow. For a moment, the newsvendor in the adjoining room, 
could be heard snoring, and then the whole house subsided 
into complete silence. S£verine had succumbed to invincible 
slumber. The cuckoo clock had just struck three. 

Jacques was unable to close his eyes, which a hand, invisible 
in the obscurity, seemed to keep open. He could now 
distinguish nothing in the room. Every object had dis- 
appeared, stove, furniture, and walls. He had to turn round 



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The Monomaniac 251 

to find the two pale squares of windows, which appeared 
motionless and faint as in a dream. Notwithstanding his 
excessive fatigue, prodigious cerebral activity kept him in a 
thrill, ceaselessly unwinding the same coil of ideas. Each 
time that, by an effort of will, he fancied himself slipping 
off to sleep, the same haunting pictures began filing by 
again, awakening the same sensations. 

And the scene unfolded thus, with mechanical regularity, 
while his fixed, wide-open eyes became clouded, was that of 
the murder, detail by detail. It kept returning again and 
again, identically the same, gaining hold on him, driving him 
crazy. The knife entering the throat with a thud, the body 
giving three long twitches, life ebbing away in a flood of warm 
blood — a crimson flood which he fancied he felt coursing over 
his hands. Twenty, thirty times, the knife went in, and the 
body quivered. Oh ! if he could but deal a blow like that, 
satisfy his long craving, learn what one experiences, become 
acquainted with that minute which is longer than a lifetime 1 

In spite of his effort to sleep, the invisible fingers kept his 
eyes open; and in the darkness the murder scene re- 
appeared in all its sanguinary traits. Then, he ceased the 
struggle and remained a prey to the stubborn vision. He 
could hear within him the unfettered labour of the brain, the 
rumble of the whole machine. It came from long ago, from 
his youth. And yet he had fancied himself cured, for this 
desire to kill had been dead for months ; but, since the story 
of that crime had been told him just now, he had never felt 
the feeling so intensely. An intolerable warmth ran up his 
spine, and at the back of the neck he felt a pricking, as if red- 
hot needles were boring into him. He became afraid of his 
hands, and imprisoned them under him, as if he dreaded 
some abomination on their part, some act that he was deter- 
mined not to allow them to commit. 

Each time the cuckoo clock struck, Jacques counted the 
strokes. Four o'clock, five o'clock, six o'clock. He longed for 



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IS 2 The Monomaniac 

daylight, in the hope that dawn would dispel this nightmare. 
And now, he turned towards the windows, watching the panes 
of glass. But he could see naught save the vague reflex of 
the snow. At a quarter to five he had heard the through 
train arrive from Havre, with a delay of only forty minutes 
which proved that the line must be clear. And it was not 
until after seven that he saw the window panes slowly be- 
coming milky white. At length the darkness in the apartment 
disappeared, to give; place to an uncertain glimmer, in which 
the furniture looked as if floating. The stove, the cupboard, 
the sideboard reappeared. He was still unable to close his 
lids. His eyes seemed determined to see. 

All of a sudden, before it even became sufficiently light 
for him to distinguish the object, he had guessed that the 
knife he had used to cut the cake the previous night lay 
on the table. He now saw nothing but this knife, a small 
pointed weapon. And as day grew, all the clear rays from 
the two windows centred upon this thin blade. In terror 
of what his hands might do, he thrust them farther under 
him, for he could feel that they were agitated, in open 
revolt, more powerful than his own will. Would they cease 
to belong to him, those hands that came from another, 
bequeathed to him by some ancestor of the days when man 
strangled animals in the woods? 

So as not to see the knife, Jacques turned towards SeVerine, 
who was sleeping very calmly in her intense fatigue, with 
the even respiration of a child. Her mass of unbound, 
black hair made her a sombre pillow, and spread over her 
shoulders. Beneath her chin, her throat appeared amidst 
the curls, a throat of cream-like delicacy, faintly tinted with 
rose. He gazed at her, as if he did not know her. And 
yet he adored her, carrying her image along with him, 
impressed on his mind, wherever he went. She was ever 
in his thoughts, even when he was driving his engine; and 
so much so, that on one occasion, when he awoke to 



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The Monomaniac 253 

reality, as from a dream, it was to find himself going at full 
speed past a station, in defiance of the signals. 

But, at the sight of that white throat, he was overcome 
by a sudden, inexorable fascination; and, with a feeling 
of horror, of which he still had conscience, he felt the 
imperious necessity rising within him to take the knife 
from the table and bury it up to the handle in the flesh 
of this woman. He heard the thud of the blade entering 
the throat, he saw the body quake with three spasms, then 
stiffen in the death agony amidst a crimson flood. 

In the struggle to free himself from these haunting thoughts, 
he every second lost a little of his will. It seemed to be 
succumbing to the fixed idea, to be reaching that extremity 
when a man yields, vanquished, to the impulse of instinct 
Everything went wrong. His revolted hands, overcoming 
his effort to conceal them, became unclasped of themselves, 
and escaped. He then understood that, henceforth, he was 
not their master, and that they would go, and brutally satisfy 
themselves if he continued gazing at S^verine. 

Although it was now broad daylight, the room appeared 
to him to be full of reddish smoke, as if it was a dawn of 
icy fog, drowning everything. He shivered with fever. 
He had taken the knife, and concealed it up his sleeve, 
certain of killing one woman, the first he should meet on 
the pavement outside, when a crumpling of linen, a prolonged 
sigh, made him turn pale and stop riveted beside the table. 
It was S^verine waking up. 

He felt convinced that if he approached her, with that 
knife in his sleeve, if he only saw her again, in all her 
delicate beauty, there would be an end to that will which 
kept him firmly standing there close to her. In spite of 
himself, his hand would rise and bury the knife in her neck. 
Distracted, he opened the door, and fled. 

It was eight o'clock when Jacques found himself on the 
pavement of the Rue d* Amsterdam. The snow had not yet 



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254 The Monomaniac 

been removed, and the footsteps of the few passersby could 
barely be heard. He immediately caught sight of an old 
woman, but, as she happened to be turning the corner of the 
Rue de Londres, he did not follow her. Being among men 
he walked down towards the Place du Havre, grasping the 
handle of the knife, whose blade disappeared up his sleeve. 
As a girl about fourteen left a house opposite, he crossed 
the road, but only reached the other side to see her enter 
the shop of a baker next door. His impatience was such 
that he could not wait, but sought farther on, continuing to 
descend the street. 

Since he had quitted the room with this knife, it was no 
longer he who acted, but the other one, him whom he had 
so frequently felt stirring in the depths of his being, that 
unknown party who dated back so very far, who was burning 
with the hereditary thirst for murder. He had killed in 
days of yore, he wanted to kill again. 

And the objects around Jacques were only things in a 
dream, for he saw them in the light of his fixed idea. His 
everyday life was as if abolished. He strode along like a 
somnambulist, without memory of the past, without forethought 
for the future, a slave to his necessity. His personality was 
absent from the body, which took its own direction. 

Two women who brushed by, as they advanced ahead 
of him, caused him to hasten his step ; and he had caught 
them up, when a man stopped them. All three stood 
laughing and chatting together. This man being in his way, 
he began following another woman who went by, looking feeble 
and gloomy, and presenting a poverty-stricken appearance 
in her thin shawl. She advanced with short steps, on her 
way, no doubt, to some execrated task, that was hard and 
meanly remunerated, for she did not hurry, and her face 
looked despairingly sad. 

Nor did he hurry, now that he had found a victim, but 
waited to select a spot where he could strike her at ease. 



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The Monomaniac 255 

Probably she perceived him following her, as her eyes 
turned towards him in unutterable distress, astonished that 
anybody could wish to have anything to say to her. She 
had already led him to the middle of the Rue du Havre, 
where she turned round twice more, each time preventing 
him plunging the knife, which he drew from his sleeve, into 
her throat — her eyes looked so full of misery, and so sup- 
plicating ! He would strike her down over there, as she 
stepped from the pavement. But, he abruptly turned aside, 
in pursuit of another woman coming the opposite way. And 
he acted thus without reason, without will, simply because 
she happened to be passing at that minute. 

Jacques followed her towards the station. This young 
woman was very lively, and walked with sonorous tread. She 
looked adorably pretty. She could be no more than twenty, 
and was plump and fair, with lovely, merry eyes that laughed 
at life. Apparently in a great hurry, she did not even notice 
that a man was following her, but briskly ascended the flight 
of steps in the Cour du Havre into the grand hall, along which 
she almost ran in her haste to reach the ticket-office of the 
Ceinture line. And as she there asked for a first-class ticket 
to Auteuil, Jacques took the same. He then accompanied 
her through the waiting-rooms, on to the platform, and seated 
himself beside her in the compartment she selected. The 
train at once started. 

" I have plenty of time," thought he ; " 111 kill her in a 
tunnel." 

But opposite them, an elderly lady, the only other person 
there, had just recognised the young woman. 

" What ! Is it you ? " she exclaimed. " Where are you 
off to so early ? " 

The other laughed heartily with a comical gesture of despair. 

" Only fancy," said she, " one cannot go anywhere without 
meeting somebody one knows! I hope you will not betray 
me. To-morrow is the birthday of my husband; and, as soon 



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256 The Monomaniac 

as he went away to business, I set out on my errand. I am 
going to Auteuil to find a florist who has an orchid which 
my husband has set his mind on. A surprise, you understand." 

The elderly lady nodded her head up and down with 
tender benevolence. " And how is the baby ? " she inquired. 

" The baby ? " answered the young mother. " Oh ! she 
is going on beautifully. You know I weaned her a week ago. 
You should see her eating her pap. We are all remarkably 
well. It is prefectly disgraceful." 

She laughed louder than ever, displaying the white teeth 
between her ruby lips. And Jacques, who had seated himself 
on her right, his knife in his fist, hidden under his leg, said 
to himself that he was in a first-rate position to deal the blow. 
He had only to raise his arm, and turn half round, to have 
her within reach. But in the Batignolles tunnel, the thought 
of something she wore round her neck stopped him. 

" There is a knot which will inconvenience me," he reflected. 
" I want to be quite sure." 

The two ladies continued chatting gaily together. 

"So I see you are happy," remarked the older one. 

" Happy? Ah ! if I could only tell you to what extent," re- 
plied the other. " Two years ago I was nobody at all. You 
remember, there was no amusement at the home of my aunt ; 
and I was without a sou of dowry. When he used to call, 
I trembled, I had become so fond of him. He was so 
handsome, so wealthy. And he is mine, my husband, and 
we have baby between us. I assure you it is too delightful ! " 

Jacques, in examining the knot of the scarf, perceived a 
big gold locket underneath, attached to a black velvet band ; 
and he calculated how he would proceed. 

" I will grasp her by the neck," thought he, " with my left 
hand, and thrust aside the locket as I put her head back to 
have the throat free." 

The train stopped, and went on again every few minutes, 
the stations being so close together. Short tunnels followed 



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The Monomaniac 257 

one another at Courcelles and Neuilly. Presently would 
do, one minute would be sufficient. 

" Did you go to the seaside last summer ? " inquired the 
old lady. 

" Yes," answered the other, " to Brittany, for six weeks, in 
an out-of-the-way corner, a perfect paradise. Then we passed 
September in Poitou, at the seat of ray father-in-law, who owns 
extensive woods down there. ,, 

" And you are going to the south for the winter ? " said the 
old lady. 

" Yes," answered the younger one, " we shall be at Cannes 
about the 15th. The house is taken. A delightful bit of 
garden facing the sea. We have sent someone down to pre- 
pare the place. Neither of us fear the cold, but then, the 
sun is so nice ! We shall be back in March. Next year we 
intend to remain in Paris. After two years, when baby is big, 
we mean to travel. I hardly know what afterwards. It is 
one constant holiday ! " 

She was so overflowing with felicity, that yielding to a feeling 
of expansion, she turned towards Jacques, towards this un- 
known individual to smile at him. In making this movement 
the knot of her scarf was displaced, carrying the locket away 
with it, and revealing the rosy neck with a slight dimple 
gilded by the shadow. 

The fingers of Jacques clutched the handle of the knife, 
at the same time as he formed an irrevocable resolution. 

" That is the spot where I will deal the blow," said he to 
himself. " Yes, in the tunnel before reaching Passy." 

But, at the Trocadero station, a member of the staff got in, 
who, knowing Jacques, began to talk about a theft of coal 
that had been brought home to a driver and his fireman. 
From that moment everything became confused. Later on 
he was never able to establish the facts, exactly. The laughter 
continued in such a beam of happiness that he felt as if 
penetrated and appeased by it. Perhaps he went as far as 

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258 The Monomaniac 

Auteuil with the two ladies, only he had no recollection of 
seeing them leave the carriage. 

In the end he found himself beside the Seine, without 
knowing how he came there. But he had the distinct remem- 
brance of casting the knife, which had remained in his hand, 
with the blade up his sleeve, from the top of the bank into 
the river. Then he hardly knew what occurred, being half 
silly, absent from his being, which the other one had also 
left along with the knife. He must have wandered about for 
hours through streets and squares, wherever his body chanced 
to take him. People and houses filed past very faintly. 
Doubtless, he had gone in somewhere to get food at the end 
of a room full of customers, for he clearly recalled the white 
plates. He had also the firm impression that he saw a red 
broadside on the shutters of a shop. And then, all sank into 
a black chasm, to nothingness, where there was neither time 
nor space, where he lay inert, perhaps since centuries. 

When Jacques came to himself, he was in his little room 
in the Rue Cardinet. He had fallen across his bed in his 
clothes. Instinct had taken him there, just as a lame dog 
drags himself to his kennel, or his hole. He remembered 
neither going upstairs, nor going to sleep. He awoke from 
heavy slumber, scared to suddenly regain self-possession, as 
if after a long fainting fit Perhaps he had slept three hours, 
perhaps three days. All at once his memory returned : the 
confession Severine had made of the murder, and his depar- 
ture like a feline animal in search of blood. He had been 
beside himself, but he now had full command of his faculties, 
and felt astounded at what had taken place against his will. 
Then the recollection of the young woman awaiting him, made 
him leap to his feet at a bound. He looked at his watch, 
and saw it was already four o'clock; and, with a clear head, 
very calm, as if after a copious bleeding, he hastened back 
to the Impasse d' Amsterdam. 

SeVerine had been wrapped in profound slumber until noon. 



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The Monomaniac 259 

Then, waking up, surprised not to see Jacques there, she had 
lit the fire, and, dying of inanition, had made up her mind, 
at about two o'clock, to run down and get something to 
eat at a neighbouring restaurant. When Jacques appeared 
she had just come up again, after going on a few errands. 

" Oh! my darling ! " she exclaimed, as he entered the room ; 
" I was most anxious ! " 

And she hung round his neck, looking into his eyes, quite 
close. 

" What has happened?" she added inquiringly. 

He placidly removed her fears, without feeling in the least 
troubled. 

" Oh ! nothing," he replied, " a nasty job. When they once 
get hold of you, they will never let you go." 

Then, SeVerine, lowering her voice, became very humble 
and fondling. 

" Only think," said she, " I fancied, — oh ! an ugly thought, 
that caused me a great deal of pain ! — Yes, I fancied to myself 
that perhaps after the confession I made, you would have 
nothing more to do with me ; and I imagined you had gone, 
never, never to return ! " 

Tears filled her eyes, and she burst into sobs, pressing him 
distractedly in her arms. 

"Ah! my darling," she continued, "if you only knew how 
I yearn for kindness ! Love me, love me fondly, because, 
you see, it is only your love that can make me forget. Now 
that I have told you all my trouble, you must not leave 
me. Oh ! I implore you ! " 

Jacques felt penetrated by this tenderness. An invincible 
relaxation softened him little by little, and he stammered out : 

" No, no, I love you, do not be afraid." 

And quite overcome, he also wept, in face of the fatality 
of that abominable evil which had again taken hold of him, 
and of which he would never be cured. It was shame, and 
despair without limit. 



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260 The Monomaniac 

" Love me, love me fondly, also," he continued. " Oh ! 
with all your strength, for I have as great, a need of love 
as you." 

She shuddered, and wished to know more. 

" If you are in grief, you must confide in me," said she. 

" No, no," he replied, "not grief, things that do not exist, 
moments of sadness that make me horribly unhappy, without 
it being even possible to speak of them." 

They strained one another, mingling their frightfully melan- 
choly trouble. It was infinite suffering without any possible 
oblivion, and without pardon. They wept, and upon them 
they felt the blind force of life, made up of struggles and 
death. 

"Come," said Jacques, disengaging himself, "it is time - 
to think of leaving ! To-night you will be at Havre ! " 

SeVerine, with clouded brow and vacant eyes, murmured 
after a silence : i 

" If I were only free, if my husband were no longer there. I 
Ah ! how soon we should forget ! " i 

He gave a violent gesture, and thinking aloud, he muttered : 

" Still we cannot kill him ! " | 

She gazed at him fixedly, and he started, astonished at ] 
what he had said, for such an idea had never entered his j 
mind. But as he wished to kill someone, why not kill this | 
embarrassing man ? And, as he left her to run to the depot, j 
she again clasped him in her arms, and smothered him with 
kisses. ' 

"Oh! my darling/ she repeated, " love me fondly. I will J 
love you, more and more. We shall be happy, you will see." 



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CHAPTER IX 

DURING the ensuing days at Havre, Jacques and 
SeVerine, who were alarmed, displayed great prudence. 
As Roubaud knew all, would he not be on the watch to 
surprise and wreak vengeance on them in a burst of rage? 
They recalled his previous angry fits of jealousy, his brutalities 
of a former porter, when he struck out with his clenched 
fists; and now, observing him so sour, so mute, with his 
troubled eyes, they imagined he must be meditating some 
savage, cunning trick, some stealthy snare to get them in 
his clutches. So, for the first few months, they were ever 
on the alert, and in meeting one another took all kinds of 
precautions. 

Still Roubaud absented himself more and more. Perhaps, 
he merely disappeared for the purpose of returning un- 
expectedly to find them together. But this fear proved 
groundless. His spells of absence became so prolonged 
that he was never at home, running off as soon as he 
became free, and only returning at the precise minute when 
the service claimed him. During the weeks he was on 
day duty, he managed to get through his ten o'clock knife- 
and-fork breakfast in five minutes, and was not seen again 
before half-past eleven ; and at five o'clock in the evening, 
when his colleague came down to relieve him, he slipped 
away again, often to remain out the whole night. He barely 
allowed himself a few hours' sleep. His behaviour was 
similar during the weeks he did night duty. Free at 

261 



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-GoQgle 



262 The Monomaniac 

five o'clock in the morning, he no doubt ate and slept in 
the town, as he did not return until five o'clock in the 
afternoon. 

Notwithstanding this disorderly mode of life, he for a 
long time maintained exemplary punctuality, being invariably 
at his post at the exact minute, although he was sometimes 
so worn out that he could hardly keep on his. feet. Still 
he was there, and conscientiously went through his work. 
Now came interruptions. Moulin, the other assistant station- 
master, had twice waited an hour for him ; and one morning 
after breakfast, finding he had not returned, he had even 
in good fellowship sought him out, to save him from a 
reprimand. All fhe duty Roubaud had to perform suffered 
from this slow course of disorganisation. 

In the daytime he was no longer the same active man 
who, when a train went off or came in, examined everything 
with his own eyes, noting down the smallest details in his 
report to his chief, as hard for himself as for those under 
him. At night, he slept like a top in the great armchair 
in the office. When awake he seemed still sleeping, going 
and coming along the platform with hands behind his back, 
giving orders without emphasis, and without verifying their 
execution. Nevertheless, the work went on satisfactorily, 
apart from a slight collision, due to his negligence in sending 
a passenger train on to a shunting-line. His colleagues 
merely laughed, contenting themselves with saying that he 
went on the spree. 

The truth was that Roubaud, at present, passed all his 
spare time in a small, out-of-the-way room on the first floor 
of the Cafe* du Commerce, which little by little had become 
a gambling-place. It was there the assistant station-master 
satisfied that morbid passion for play which had commenced 
on the morrow of the murder through a chance game at 
piquet, to increase afterwards and become a firmly rooted 
habit, owing to the absolute diversion and oblivion it 



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The Monomaniac 263 

afforded. Henceforth, the gambling mania had a firm grip 
on him, as if it was the sole gratification in which he found 
contentment. Not that he had ever been tormented through 
remorse with a desire to forget, but amidst the upheaval 
at home, amidst his shipwrecked existence, he had found 
consolation in the diverting influence of this egotistic pleasure, 
which he could enjoy alone; everything was obliterated by 
this passion which completed his disorganisation. 

Alcohol could not have brought him lighter or swifter 
moments, so free from every anxiety. He had even released 
himself from the care of life. He seemed to live with 
extraordinary, but disinterested intensity, without being touched 
by any of those annoyances that formerly made him burst 
with rage. And, apart from the fatigue of sitting-up all 
night, he enjoyed very good health. He even put on fat, 
a heavy yellow kind of fat, and his lids hung wearily above 
his troubled eyes. When he went home with his slow, 
sleepy gestures, it was to display supreme indifference for 
everything. 

On the night that Roubaud returned to his lodgings to 
take the 300 frcs. in gold from under the parquetry, he 
wanted to pay M. Cauche, the commissary of police at the 
station, several successive losses he had made. Cauche, 
who was an old gambler, showed magnificent composure, 
which rendered him redoubtable. Compelled by his duties 
to keep up the appearances of an old military man, who, 
having remained bachelor, spent all his time at the cafe 
as a quiet, regular customer, he averred that he only played 
for pleasure ; which did not prevent him passing the whole 
night at cards and pocketing all the money of the others. 
Rumours had got abroad that, ,'owing to his inexactitude in 
the discharge of his functions, it had become a question of 
forcing him to resign. But matters dragged on, and there 
being so little to do, it seemed unnecessary to exact greater 
zeal. So he continued to confine himself to appearing for an 



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264 The Monomaniac 

instant on the platform of the station, where everyone bowed 
to him. 

Three weeks after the payment of the first debt, Roubaud 
owed nearly another 400 frcs. to M. Cauche. He explained 
that the legacy to his wife put them quite at their ease; 
but he added, with a laugh, that she kept the keys of the 
safe, which explained his delay in discharging his gambling 
liabilities. Then, one morning, when alone and tormented, 
he again raised the piece of parquetry, and took a 1000-franc- 
note from the hiding-place. He trembled in all his limbs. 
He had not experienced such emotion on the night he 
helped himself to the gold. Doubtless, in his mind, that 
was only odd change come across by chance, whereas the 
theft began with this note. It made his flesh creep when 
he thought of this sacred money, which he had vowed never 
to touch. 

Formerly he had sworn he would sooner die of hunger, 
and yet he touched it, and he could not explain how he 
had got rid of his scruples. Doubtless he had lost a portion 
of them day by day in the slow fermentation of the murder. 
At the bottom of the hole he fancied he felt something 
damp, something flabby and nauseous, which gave him horror. 
Quickly replacing the piece of parquetry, he once more 
swore that he would cut off his hand rather than remove 
it again. His wife had not seen him. He drew a breath 
of relief, and drank a large glass full of water to compose 
himself. Now his heart beat with delight at the idea of 
his debt being paid, and of all this sum he would be able 
to risk on the gambling-table. 

But when it became a question of changing the note, 
the vexations of Roubaud began again. Formerly he was 
brave, he would have given himself up had he not committed 
the folly of involving his wife in the business; while now 
the mere thought of the gendarmes made him shiver. It 
served him but little to know that the judicial authorities 



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The Monomaniac 265 

were not in possession of the numbers of the notes that 
had disappeared, and that the criminal proceedings were 
at rest, shelved for ever in the cardboard boxes; as soon 
as he formed the project of going somewhere to ask for 
change, he was seized with terror. 

For five days he kept the note about him, and got into 
the habit of constantly touching it, of changing its place, of 
even keeping it with him at night. He built up some very 
complicated plans, but always to encounter unforeseen appre- 
hensions. At first he thought of getting rid of it at the 
station : why should not a colleague in charge of one of the 
paying-in offices take it from him ? Then, when this struck 
him as extremely dangerous, he conceived the idea of going 
to the other end of Havre without his uniform cap, to pur- 
chase the first thing that entered his head. Only, would 
not the shopman be astonished to see him offer such a big 
note in payment of so small a purchase? And he had 
then made up his mind to present the note at the shop of 
a tobacconist on the Cours Napoleon, where he went daily. 
Would this not be the most simple course of all ? It was 
known he had inherited the legacy, and the shopkeeper 
could not be surprised. 

He walked to the door, but feeling himself falter he went 
down to the Vauban dock to muster up courage. After 
walking about for half an hour, he returned without yet being 
able to do as he had decided. But in the evening, at the 
Cafe* du Commerce, as M. Cauche happened to be there, 
a sudden feeling of bravado made him pull the note from 
his pocket and beg the hostess to change it; but as she 
did not happen to have sufficient gold, she had to send a 
waiter to the tobacco shop. Everyone made fun about the 
note, which seemed quite new, although dated ten years 
back. The commissary of police, taking it in his hand, 
turned it over and over, with the remark that it must 
certainly have been lying in some out-of-the-way place, 



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266 The Monomaniac 

which made another person relate an interminable story 
about a hidden fortune being discovered under the marble 
top of a chest of drawers. 

Weeks passed, and this money which Roubaud had in his 
hands sufficed to send his passion to fever heat It was not 
that he played for high stakes, but he was pursued by such 
constant dismal bad luck that the small daily losses, added 
together, totalled up to a large amount. Towards the end 
of the month he found himself without a sou, besides being 
a few louis in debt, and so ill that he hardly dared touch a 
card. Nevertheless, he struggled on, and almost had to take 
to his bed. The idea of the nine notes remaining there 
under the floor of the dining-room preyed on his mind at 
every minute. He could see them through the wood, he felt 
them heating the soles of his boots. If he chose he could 
take another ! But this time he had formally sworn he would 
rather thrust his hand in the fire than rummage there again. 
But one night, when S^verine had gone to bed early, he 
again raised the piece of parquetry, yielding with rage and 
distracted with such grief that his eyes filled with tears. 
What was the use of resisting thus ? It was only needless 
suffering, for he could see that he would now take all the 
notes, one by one, until the last. 

Next morning S^verine chanced to notice a chip, quite 
fresh, at the spot where the treasure lay concealed. Stooping 
down, she found the trace of a dent. Her husband evidently 
continued taking money, and she was astonished at the anger 
that got the better of her, for as a rule she was not grasping; 
and besides, she also fancied herself resolved to die of hunger 
rather than touch one of those blood-stained notes. But 
did they not belong to her as much as to him ? Why should 
he avoid consulting her and dispose of them on the sly ? 
Until dinner-time she was tormented by the desire to be 
positive, and she would in her turn have taken up the 
parquetry to look, had she not felt a little cold shiver in her 



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The Monomaniac 267 

hair at the thought of searching there all alone. Would not 
the dead rise from this hole? This childish fear made the 
dining-room seem so unpleasant that she took her work 
and shut herself up in her bedroom. 

Then, in the evening, as the two were silently eating the 
remains of a stew, she again became irritated at seeing him 
cast involuntary glances at the spot where the money was 
hidden. 

" You've been helping yourself to some more ? " she said 
interrogatively. 

He raised his head in astonishment. 

" Some more what ? " he inquired. 

"Oh ! do not act the innocent," she continued; "you 
understand very well. But listen : I will not have you do it 
again, because it is no more yours than mine, and it upsets 
me to know that you touch it" 

Habitually he avoided quarrels. Their life in common 
had become the mere obligatory contact of two beings bound 
one to the other, passing entire days without exchanging a 
word ; and, henceforth, going and coming like indifferent and 
solitary strangers. So he refused to give any explanation, and 
contented himself with shrugging his shoulders. 

But she became very excited. She meant to finish with the 
matter, with the question of this money hidden there, which 
had made her suffer since the day of the crime. 

"I insist on you answering me!" she exclaimed. "Dare 
to say that you have not touched it ! " 

" What does it matter to you ? " he asked. 

" It matters to me, this much," she replied,—" that it makes 
me ill. Again to-day I was afraid. I could not remain here. 
Every time you go to that place I have horrible dreams three 
nights in succession. We never mention the subject. Then 
remain quiet, and do not force me to speak about it." 

He contemplated her with his great staring eyes, and 
repeated in a weighty tone : 



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268 The Monomaniac 

" What does it matter to you if I touch it, so long as I 
do not force you to do so? It is my own business, and 
concerns me alone ! " 

She was about to make a violent gesture, which she repressed. 
Then, quite upset, with a countenance full of suffering and 
disgust> she exclaimed : 

"Ah! indeed! I do not understand you! And yet you 
were an honest man. Yes, you would never have taken a sou 
from anyone. And what you did might have been forgiven, 
for you were crazy, and made me the same. But this money ! 
Ah ! this abominable money ! which should not exist for you, 
and which you are stealing sou by sou for your pleasure. 
What has happened ? How could you have fallen so low ? " 

He listened to her, and in a moment of lucidity he also 
felt astonished that he should have arrived at thieving. The 
phases of the slow demoralisation were becoming effaced, he 
was unable to re-join what the murder had severed around 
him, he failed to understand how another existence, how 
almost a new being had commenced, with his home destroyed, 
his wife standing aside, and hostile. But the unavoidable 
subject at once came uppermost in his mind. He gave 
a gesture, as if to free himself from troublesome reflections, 
and growled : 

" When there is no pleasure at home, one seeks diversion 
outside. As you no longer love me " 

" Oh ! no, I have no more love for you," she interrupted. 

He looked at her, gave a blow with his fist on the table, 
and the blood rushed to his face. 

"Then leave me alone!" he exclaimed. "Do I interfere 
with your amusements? Do I sit in judgment on you? 
There are many things an upright man would do in my 
place, and which I do not do ! To begin with, I ought 
to kick you out at the door. After that I should perhaps 
not steal." 

She had become quite pale, for she also had often thought 



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The Monomaniac 269 

that when a man, and particularly a jealous man, is ravaged 
by some internal evil to the point of allowing his wife a 
sweetheart, there exists an indication of moral gangrene in- 
vading his being, destroying the other scruples, and entirely 
disorganising his conscience. But she struggled inwardly, 
refusing to hold herself responsible, and in an unsteady voice 
she exclaimed: 

" I forbid you to touch the money ! " 

He had finished eating, and, quietly folding up his napkin, 
he rose, saying in a bantering tone : 

" If you want to share the cash, let us do so." 

He was already bending down as if to take up the piece 
of parquetry, and she had to rush forward and place her foot 
on it. 

" No, no ! " she pleaded. " You know I would prefer 
death. Do not open it. No, no ! not before me ! " 

That same night SeVerine had an appointment with Jacques 
behind the goods station. When she returned home after 
twelve o'clock, the scene with her husband in the evening 
recurred to her, and she double-locked herself in her bedroom. 
Roubaud was on night duty, and she had no anxiety lest he 
should return and come to bed, a circumstance that very 
rarely happened, even when he had his nights to himself. 
But with bedclothes to her chin, and the lamp turned down, 
she failed to get to sleep. Why had she refused to share ? 

And she found that her ideas of honesty were not so keen 
as before, at the thought of taking advantage of this money. 
Had she not accepted the legacy of La Croix-de-Maufras ? 
Then she could very well take the money also. Now the 
shivering fit returned. No, no, never ! Money she would 
have taken. What she dared not touch, without fear of 
literally burning her fingers, was this money stolen from 
a dead body, this abominable money of the murder! She 
again recovered calm, and reasoned with herself : if she had 
taken the money, it would not have been to spend it ; on the 



Digitized^ ViQQQlC_ 



270 The Monomaniac 

contrary, she would have hidden it somewhere else, buried it 
in a place known to her alone, where it would have remained 
eternally ; and, at this hour even, half the amount would 
still be saved from the hands of her husband. He would not 
enjoy the triumph of having it all, he would not be able 
to gamble away what belonged to her. 

When the clock struck three she felt mortally sorry that 
she had refused to share. A thought, indeed, came to her, 
still confused, and far from being determined on : supposing 
she were to get up, and search beneath the parquetry, so 
that he might have nothing more. Only she was seized 
with such icy coldness that she would not dream of it. Take 
all, keep all, without him daring to complain ! And this 
plan, little by little, gained on her ; while a will stronger 
than her resistance arose from the unconscious depths of 
her being. She would not do it; and yet she abruptly 
leapt from the bed, for she could not restrain herself. 
Turning up the lamp, she passed into the dining-room. 

From that moment S6verine ceased trembling. Her terror 
left her, and she proceeded calmly, with the slow and 
precise gestures of a somnambulist. She had to fetch the 
poker, which served to raise the piece of parquetry, and 
failing to see when the hole was uncovered, she brought 
the lamp near it. But then, bending forward, motionless, 
she became riveted to the spot in stupor: the hole was 
empty. It appeared evident, that while she had gone to 
her appointment with Jacques, Roubaud had returned, 
tormented by the same desire as herself to take all and 
keep all, a desire that had come to him before attacking 
her j and at one stroke he had pocketed all the bank-notes 
that were left. Not a single one remained. She knelt 
down, but only perceived the watch and chain at the 
back of the hiding-place, where the gold sparkled in the 
dust of the joists. Frigid rage kept her there an instant, 
rigid and half nude, repeating aloud, a score of times over : 



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The Monomaniac 271 

"Thief! thief! thief!" 

Then, with a furious movement, she grasped the watch, 
while a great black spider, which she had disturbed, fled 
along the plaster. Replacing the piece of parquetry with 
blows from her heel, she returned to bed, standing the 
lamp on the night-table. When she had become warm, she 
looked at the watch which she held in her hand, turning 
it over and examining it for a long time. The two initials 
of the President, interlaced on the back of the case, interested 
her. Inside, she read the number of the manufacturer, 2516. 
It was a very dangerous piece of jewelry to keep, for the 
judicial authorities »knew the number. But, in her anger 
at being unable to save anything but this, she had no fear. 
She even felt there would be an end to her nightmares, 
now that the skeleton had disappeared from under the 
floor. At last she would be able to tread at home in peace, 
wherever she pleased. So, slipping the watch beneath her 
pillow, she turned out the lamp and fell asleep. 

Next day Jacques, who was free, had to wait until 
Roubaud had settled down at the Cafe* du Commerce in 
accordance with his habit, to run up and lunch with SeVerine. 
Occasionally, when they dared, they treated themselves to 
these little diversions. And on that day, as she was eating, 
still all of a tremble, she spoke to him about the money, 
relating how she had found the hiding-place empty. Her 
rancour against her husband was not appeased, and the 
words she had used the previous night came incessantly 
to her lips : 

"Thief! thief! thief!" 

Then she brought the watch, and insisted on giving it 
to Jacques in spite of his repugnance to take it. 

"But you see, my darling, " she said, "no one will ever 
think of searching for the thing at your place. If it remains 
with me, he will get possession of it. And rather than that 
should happen I would let him tear me to pieces. No, 



Digitizgd.by VjOOSlC 



272 The Monomaniac 

he has had too much already. I did not want the money ; 
it gave me horror. I would never have spent a sou of 
it. But had he the right to take it ? Oh ! I hate 
him ! " 

• She was in tears, and persisted with so many supplica- 
tions, that Jacques ended by placing the watch in his 
waistcoat pocket. 

An hour had passed when Roubaud, who had his own 
key, opened the door and stepped in. She was at once 
on her feet, while Roubaud stopped short, and Jacques, 
who was stupefied, remained seated. S^verine, without 
troubling to give any sort of explanation, advanced towards 
her husband, and passionately repeated : 

"Thief! thief! thief!" 

Roubaud hesitated for a second. Then, with that shrug 
of the shoulders, which served to brush everything aside now, 
he entered the bedroom and picked-up a note-book connected 
with the railway, which he had forgotten. But she followed 
him, giving free play to her tongue. 

"You have been there again," she said. "Dare to deny 
that you have been there again ! And you have taken it 
all! Thief! thief! thief!" 

He crossed the dining-room without a word. It was only 
at the door that he turned round to embrace her in his leaden 
glance, and say : 

"Just let me have peace, eh!" 

He was gone, and the door did not even bang. He 
appeared not to have seen, and made no allusion to the 
sweetheart seated there. 

From that day S£verine and Jacques enjoyed perfect 
freedom, without troubling any further about Roubaud. But 
if the husband ceased to cause them anxiety, it was not 
the same with the eavesdropping of Madame Lebleu, the 
neighbour ever on the watch. She certainly had the idea 
that something irregular was going on. Jacques might well 



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The Monomaniac 273 

muffle the sound of his footsteps. At each visit he noticed 
the opposite door imperceptibly come ajar, and an eye 
staring at him through the chink. It became intolerable. 
He no longer dared ascend the staircase; for if he ran 
the risk, she knew he was there ; and her ear went to the 
keyhole, so that it became impossible to take a kiss, or 
even to converse at liberty. 

It was then that SeVerine, in exasperation, resumed her 
former campaign against the Lebleus, to gain possession of 
their lodging. It was notorious that an assistant station- 
master had always lived there. But it was not now for* the 
superb view afforded by the windows opening on the court- 
yard at the entrance, and stretching to the heights of 
Ingouville, that she desired it ; her sole motive, anent which 
she never breathed a word, was that the lodging had a second 
entry — a door opening on a back staircase. Jacques could 
come up and go out that way without Madame Lebleu 
having even a suspicion of his visits. At last they would 
be free. 

The battle was terrible. This question, which had already 
impassioned all the corridor, began afresh, and became en- 
venomed from hour to hour. Madame Lebleu, in presence 
of the menace, desperately defended herself, convinced in 
her own mind that she would die if shut up in the dark 
lodging at the back, with the view barred by the roofing 
of the marquee, and as sad as a prison. How could she 
live in that black hole — she, who was accustomed to her 
beautifully bright room opening on the vast expanse of 
country, enlivened by the constant coming and going of 
travellers ? And the state of her lower limbs preventing her 
going out for a walk, she would never have aught but the 
zinc roof to gaze upon; she might just as well be killed 
straight off. 

Unfortunately these were mere sentimental reasons, and 
she was forced to own that she held the lodging from the 

18 



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274 The Monomaniac 

former assistant station-master, predecessor of Roubaud, who, 
being a bachelor, had ceded it to her from motives of 
courtesy; and it appeared that there even existed a letter 
from her husband, undertaking to vacate the rooms should 
any future assistant station-master claim them ; but as the 
letter had not yet been found, she denied that it had ever 
been written. In proportion as her case suffered, she 
became more violent and aggressive. At one moment she 
had sought to involve the wife of Moulin, the other assistant 
station-master, in the business, and so gain her over to her 
side by saying that this lady had seen men kiss Madame 
Roubaud on the stairs. Thereupon Moulin became angry; 
for his wife, a very gentle and insignificant creature, whom 
no one ever saw, vowed, in tears, that she had neither seen 
nor said anything. 

For a -week all this tittle-tattle swept like a tempest, from 
one end of the corridor to the other. But the cardinal 
mistake of Madame Lebleu, and the one destined to bring 
about her defeat, consisted in constantly irritating Mademoiselle 
Guichon, the office-keeper, by obstinately spying on her. It 
was a mania on the part of Madame Lebleu, a firm conviction, 
that this spinster was carrying on an intrigue with the station- 
master. And her anxiety to surprise them had become a 
malady, which was all the more intense as she had had 
her eye on them for three years, without surprising anything 
whatever, not even a breath. 

So Mademoiselle Guichon, furious that she could neither 
go out nor come in without being watched, now exerted 
herself to have Madame Lebleu relegated to the back; a 
lodging would then separate them, and anyhow, she would 
no longer have her opposite, nor be obliged to pass before 
her door. Moreover, it was evident that M. Dabadie, the 
station-master, who hitherto had avoided meddling in the 
struggle, was becoming more and more unfavourable to 
the Lebleus every day, which was a grave sign. 



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The Monomaniac 275 

Besides, the situation became complicated by quarrels. 
Philom£ne, who now brought her new-laid eggs to S^verine, 
displayed great insolence every time she ran across Madame 
Lebleu ; and as the latter purposely left her door open, 
so as to annoy everybody, spiteful remarks were continually 
being exchanged between the two women. 

This intimacy of S^verine and Philom&ne having drifted 
into confidences, the latter had ended by taking messages 
from Jacques to his sweetheart when he did not dare run 
upstairs himself. Arriving with her eggs, she altered the 
appointments, said why he had been obliged to be prudent 
on the previous evening, and related how long he had stayed 
at her house in conversation. Jacques, at times, when an 
obstacle prevented him meeting S^verine, found no displeasure 
in passing his time in this way at the cottage of Sauvagnat, 
the head of the engine depot. He accompanied Pecqueux, 
his fireman, there, as if for the purpose of distraction, for 
he dreaded staying a whole evening alone. But when the 
fireman disappeared, to go from one to another of the 
drinking resorts frequented by sailors, he called on Philom^ne 
alone, entrusted her with a message, then, seating himself, 
he remained there some time. And she, becoming little 
by little mixed-up in this love affair, began to be smitten. 
The small hands and polite manners of this sad lover 
seemed to her delightful. 

One evening she unbosomed herself to him, complaining 
of the fireman, an artful fellow, said she, notwithstanding 
his jovial manner, quite capable of dealing a nasty blow 
when intoxicated. Jacques noticed that she now paid more 
attention to her personal appearance, drank less, and kept 
the house cleaner. Her brother Sauvagnat, having one 
night overheard a male voice in the room, entered with his 
hand raised ready to strike; but recognising the visitor 
talking to her, he contented himself with uncorking a bottle 
of cider. Jacques, who was well received, shook off his 



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276 The Monomaniac 

fainting fits, and apparently amused himself. Philomene, 
for her part, displayed warmer and warmer friendship for 
S£verine, and made no secret of her feelings for Madame 
Lebleu, whom she alluded to everywhere as an old hag. 

One night, meeting the two sweethearts at the back of 
her garden, she accompanied them in the dark to the shed, 
where they usually concealed themselves. 

"Ah! well," said she, "it is too good of you. As the 
lodging is yours, I would drag her out of it by the hair of 
her head. Give her a good hiding!" 
But Jacques was opposed to a scandal. 
" No, no," he broke in, " M. Dabadie has the matter in 
hand. It will be better to wait until it can be properly 
settled." 

" Before the end of the month," affirmed S^verine, " I mean 
to sleep in her room, and we shall then be able to see one 
another whenever we please." 

Philomene left them to return home, but, hidden in the 
shadow a few paces away, she paused and faced round. She 
felt considerable emotion at the knowledge that they were 
together. Still, she was not jealous ; she simply felt the need 
of loving and of being loved in this same way. 

Jacques became more and more gloomy every day. On 
two occasions when he could have met S^verine, he invented 
excuses not to do so, and sometimes when he remained late 
at the cottage of the Sauvagnats, it was also for the purpose 
of avoiding her. Nevertheless, he still loved her. But now 
the frightful evil had returned. He suffered from terrible 
swimming in the head, he turned icy cold. In terror, he 
perceived he was no longer himself, and that the animal was 
there ready to bite. 

He sought relief in the fatigue of long journeys, soliciting 
additional work, remaining twelve hours at a stretch erect 
on his engine, his body racked by the vacillation, his lungs 
scorched by the wind. His comrades complained of this hard 



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The Monomaniac 277 

life of a driver, which did for a man, said they, in a score 
of years. He would have liked to be done for at once. He 
was never sufficiently tired. Never did he feel so happy as 
when borne along by La Lison, thinking no more, and with 
eyes only for the signals. On reaching the end of the run 
sleep overpowered him, before he had even time to wash. 
Only, when he awoke, the torment of the fixed idea returned. 

He had also endeavoured to resume his former affection 
for La Lison. Again he passed hours cleaning it, exacting 
from Pecqueux that the steel should shine like silver. The 
inspectors who got up beside him on the way, paid him com- 
pliments. But he only shook his head in dissatisfaction, for, 
he knew very well, that since the stoppage in the snow, it 
was not the same efficient, valiant engine as formerly. Doubt- 
less, in the repairs to the pistons and slide-valves, it had lost 
some of its principal motive power — that mysterious equi- 
librium, due to the hazard of building. This decay caused 
him suffering which turned to bitter vexation, and to such 
a pitch that he pursued his superiors with unreasonable 
complaints, asking for unnecessary repairs, and suggesting 
improvements that were impracticable. These being refused, 
he became more gloomy, convinced that La Lison was out 
of order, and that henceforth he could do nothing decent 
with the engine. His affection in consequence became dis- 
couraged 3 what was the good of loving anything, as he would 
kill all he loved? 

Severine had not failed to observe the change, and she 
was grieved, thinking his sadness due to her, since he knew 
all. When she perceived him shudder on her neck, avoid 
her kiss by abruptly drawing back, was it not because he 
remembered, and she caused him horror? Never had she 
dared resume the conversation on the subject. She repented 
of having spoken, and was surprised at the way her con- 
fession had burst from her. As if satisfied at present to 
have him with her, at the bottom of this secret, she forgot 



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\ 



278 The Monomaniac 

how long she had felt the need to confide in him. She loved 
him more passionately since he knew everything. She only 
lived for Jacques, and her one dream was that he might 
carry her away and keep her with him. 

Of the hideous drama she had merely retained the astonish- 
ment of being mixed up in it, and she would not even have 
felt angry with her husband, had he not been in her way. 
But her execration for this man increased in proportion with 
her passion for the other. Now that her husband was aware 
of her intrigue and had absolved her, the sweetheart was 
the master, the one she would follow, and who could dispose 
of her as he pleased. She had made him give her his portrait, 
and she took it to bed with her, falling asleep with her 
lips glued to the image. And she felt very much pained 
since she saw him unhappy, without being able to exactly 
understand what caused him such suffering. 

Nevertheless, they continued to meet outside, until they 
could see one another at her home, in the new, conquered 
lodging. Winter approached its term, and the month of 
February proved very mild. They prolonged their walks, 
sauntering for hours over the open ground adjoining the 
station. Severine continued to make her trip to Paris every 
Friday ; and now she did not offer her husband the slightest 
explanation. For the neighbours, the old pretext, a bad 
knee sufficed; and she also said that she went to see her 
wet-nurse, Mother Victoire, who was a long time getting 
through her convalescence at the hospital. Both Severine 
and Jacques still took great pleasure in these journeys. He 
showed himself particularly attentive to his locomotive ; she, 
delighted to see him less gloomy, found amusement in looking 
out of the window, notwithstanding that she began to know 
every little hill and clump of trees on the way. 

From Havre to Motteville were meadows, flat fields 
separated by green hedges and planted with apple-trees; 
then as far as Rouen came a stretch of irregular, desert land. 



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The Monomaniac 279 

After Rouen, the Seine streamed by. They crossed it at 
Sotteville, at Oissel, at Pont-de-l'Arche. Now it constantly 
reappeared, expanding to great breadth across the vast plains. 
From Gaillon it was hardly once lost to view. It ran on 
the left, slackening in speed between its low banks, bordered 
with poplars and willows. The train, darting along a hillside, 
abandoned the river at Bonnieres to abruptly meet it once 
more on issuing from the Rolleboise tunnel at Rosny. It 
seemed like a friendly companion on the journey, and was 
crossed three times again before reaching Parts. 

As the train sped gaily on its way, Mantes appeared with 
its belfry amidst the trees, Triel with its white limekilns, 
Poissy, which the line severed in twain, in the very heart 
of the town. Next came the two green screens of Saint 
Germain forest, the slope of Colombes, bursting with lilac, 
and they were in the outskirts of Paris. The city could 
be perceived from the bridge at Asnieres ; the distant Arc 
de Triomphe, towering above sordid buildings, bristling with 
factory chimneys. The engine plunged beneath Batignolles, 
and the passengers streamed from the carriages on to the 
platform of the echoing station. 

Until night SeVerine and Jacques were free, and belonged 
to one another. On the return journey, it being dark, she 
closed her eyes, enjoying her happiness over again. But 
morning and night, each time she passed La Croix-de-Maufras, 
she advanced her head; and, without discovering herself, 
cast a furtive glance outside the carriage, certain that she 
would there find Flore, erect before the gate of the level- 
crossing, presenting the flag in its case, and embracing the 
train with her flaming eyes. 

Since the snowy day when this girl had caught them 
kissing one another, Jacques had warned SeVerine to be 
careful of her. He was no longer ignorant of that passion 
of a wild creature wherewith she had pursued him from her 
earliest years. He felt that she was jealous, and that she 



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280 The Monomaniac 

possessed virile energy, as well as unbridled and deadly 
rancour. Moreover, she must be well-informed in regard to 
matters concerning S^verine, for he remembered her allusion 
to the intimacy of the President with a certain young lady 
whom no one suspected, and for whom he had found a 
husband. If she knew this, she must assuredly have pene- 
trated the mystery of the crime. Doubtless, she would be 
talking or writing, so as to avenge herself by a denunciation. 

But days and weeks passed without anything happening. 
He still found her there, planted rigidly at her post beside 
the line, with her flag. Far away, as soon as she was able 
to catch sight of the locomotive, he felt the sensation of 
her burning eyes. She saw him, notwithstanding the smoke, 
and embraced all his frame in her glance, following him in 
the lightning flash amidst the thunder of the wheels. 

And the train was scrutinised at the same time, pierced 
through and through, inspected from the first carriage to 
the last; she always discovered the other one, the rival, 
whom she now knew to be there every Friday. And 
SeVerine might well advance her head but a trifle, impelled 
by the imperious necessity to look. She was seen. Their 
eyes crossed like rapiers. The train was already far away, 
devouring space; and one person remained on the ground, 
powerless to follow it, raging at the happiness it bore along. 
Flore seemed to be growing. Jacques found her taller at 
each journey, and felt uneasy at her taking no action, wonder- 
ing what plan would ripen in the head of this great, gloomy 
girl, whose motionless apparition he could not avoid. 

There was also one of the servants of the company, that 
headguard, Henri Dauvergne, who inconvenienced S£verine 
and Jacques. He happened to be in charge of this Friday 
train, and he displayed importunate amiability towards the 
young woman. The attentions of Henri became so apparent, 
that Roubaud observed them with sneering countenance on 
the mornings when he was on duty at the departure from 



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The Monomaniac 281 

Havre. The headguard was in the habit of reserving an 
entire compartment for his wife, and took pains to see she 
was comfortable there, feeling the foot-warmer to make sure 
the water was hot, and so forth. On one occasion the 
husband, while continuing a chat with Jacques, attracted his 
notice to the proceedings of the young man with a wink, 
as if to inquire whether he permitted that kind of thing. 

In the family quarrels, Roubaud flatly accused his wife 
of making love to the pair. And SeVerine imagined, for 
an instant, that Jacques also had this belief, which was 
the cause of his sadness. In a burst of tears, she protested 
her innocence, telling him to kill her if she were unfaithful. 
But he merely laughed, and, turning very pale, embraced 
her, saying he was convinced of her fidelity, and that he 
sincerely hoped he would never kill anybody. 

The first evenings of March were frightful, and they were 
obliged to interrupt their meetings. The trips to Paris, the 
few hours of freedom sought so far away, were no longer 
enough for SeVerine. She experienced an increasing desire 
to have Jacques with her, always with her, to live together, 
without ever leaving one another. And her execration for 
her husband increased. The mere presence of this man 
threw her into an unhealthy and intolerable state of excite- 
ment. She so docile, with all the complacence of a tender- 
hearted woman, became irritated as soon as it was a question 
of Roubaud, flying into a passion at the least opposition he 
made to her will. 

On such occasions the shade of her raven hair seemed 
to darken the limpid blue of her eyes. She became fierce, 
accusing him of having so thoroughly spoilt her existence 
that henceforth it would be impossible to live together. Had 
not he done it all ? If they were no longer as man and 
wife, if she had a sweetheart, was it not his own fault ? His 
sluggish tranquillity, the look of indifference with which he 
met her anger, his round shoulders, his enlarged stomach, 



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282 The Monomaniac 

all that dreadful fat, resembling happiness, completed her 
exasperation, she who suffered. Her one thought, now, was 
to break with him, to get away, to go and begin life again 
elsewhere. Oh! could she but commence again, wipe out 
the past, return to the life she led previous to all these 
abominations, find herself as she was at fifteen, and love, 
and be loved, and live as she dreamed of living then ! 

For a week, she courted the idea of taking flight : she 
would leave with Jacques, they would conceal themselves 
in Belgium, where they would set up housekeeping as a 
hard-working young couple. But she had not spoken to 
him on the subject. Obstacles had at once come in the 
way: their irregular position, the constant anxiety in which 
they would find themselves, and particularly the annoyance 
of leaving her fortune to her husband — the money, La Croix- 
de-Maufras. 

By a donation to the survivor of the pair — which is possible 
in France, and cannot be revoked without the consent of 
both parties — they had willed everything away; and she 
found herself in his power, in that legal tutelage of a wife 
which tied her hands. Rather than leave, and abandon even 
a sou, she would have preferred to die there. One day 
when he came up, livid, to say that crossing the line in 
front of a locomotive he had felt the buffer graze his elbow, 
she reflected that if he had been killed, she would have 
been free. She observed him with her great staring eyes; 
why on earth did he not die, since she had ceased to love 
him, and he was now in the way of everyone? 

From that moment the dream of Se*verine changed : Roubaud 
had been killed in an accident, and she left with Jacques for 
America. But they were married. They had sold La Croix- 
de-Maufras, and realised all the fortune. Behind them they 
left nothing they were afraid of. If they emigrated, it was 
to be born again in the arms of one another. Over there, 
naught would exist of the events she wished to forget, and 



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The Monomaniac 283 

she could imagine she was beginning a new life. As she 
had made a mistake, she would engage in the experience 
of happiness again at the commencement. He would find 
employment ; she could undertake something else. They 
would make their fortune. Perhaps children might come, 
and there would be a new existence of labour and 
felicity. 

As soon as she was alone in bed in the morning, and while 
engaged on her embroidery in the daytime, she resumed the 
construction of this castle in the air, modifying, enlarging, 
ceaselessly adding delightful details to it, and ended by 
imagining herself overwhelmed with joy and riches. She, 
who formerly went out so rarely, had now a passion for going 
to see the mail-steamers put to sea : she ran down to the 
jetty, leant over the balustrade, followed the smoke of the 
vessel until it became lost in the haze of the offing; and 
she fancied herself on deck with Jacques, already far from 
France, steaming for the paradise of her dreams. 

One evening in the month of March, Jacques having taken 
the risk of going up to see her, related that he had brought 
one of his old schoolfellows in his train from Paris, who 
was leaving for New York, to bring out a new invention, a 
machine for making buttons ; and, as he wanted an engineer 
as partner, he had offered to take the driver with him. Oh ! 
it was a magnificent enterprise, only requiring the investment 
of 30,000 frcs., a matter of ,£1,200, and in which there 
were perhaps millions to be made. Jacques merely men- 
tioned the subject casually, and concluded by saying that 
he had of course refused the offer. Nevertheless, he felt a 
bit sorry, for it is hard to turn the back on fortune when it 
comes to one. 

Severine, on her feet, listened to him with vacant eyes. 
Was not this her dream which was going to be realised ? 

" Ah ! " murmured she at last, " we would start to 
morrow " 



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284 The Monomaniac 

He raised his head in surprise, and interrupted her with 
the inquiry : 

" What do you mean by we would start ? " 

" Yes, if he were dead," she replied. 

She had not named Roubaud, but he understood, and gave 
a vague gesture to say that, unfortunately, he was not dead. 

" We would set out," she resumed in her slow, deep voice, 
" and we should be so happy over there ! I could get the 
30,000 frcs. by selling the property, and I should still have 
enough to enable us to settle down. You could turn the 
cash to account; I would arrange a little home, where we 
would love one another with all our might. Oh ! it would be 
so nice, so nice ! " 

And she added, very low : 

" Far from all recollection of the past, and only new times 
ahead of us ! " 

He felt deeply affected. Their two hands joined, and 
pressed one another instinctively. Then came a pause, both 
S^verine and Jacques being rapt in this hope. It was she 
who broke the silence. 

"All the same, it would be best for you to see your friend 
again before his departure, and ask him not to take a partner 
without letting you know," she suggested. 

Once more he was surprised. 

" What is the use of that ? " he inquired. 

" Good heavens ! Who knows ? " she answered. " The 
other day, with that locomotive ! Another second and I was 
free. One is alive in the morning, and dead at night. Is it 
not true?" 

Looking at him fixedly, she repeated : 

" Ah ! if he were only dead ! " 

" But you don't want me to kill him, do you ? " he inquired, 
trying to smile. 

Thrice she answered no ; but her eyes said yes — those eyes 
of a tender-hearted woman, who had abandoned herself to 



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The Monomaniac 285 

the inexorable cruelty of her passion. As he had killed 
another, why should not he be killed himself? This idea 
had abruptly begun to assert itself as a consequence of the 
crime, a necessary termination to the difficulty. Kill him and 
go away : nothing could be more simple. When he was once 
dead, everything would be over, and she could begin again. 
She saw no other solution possible, and her resolution was 
irrevocably taken ; but, not having the courage of her violence, 
she continued, in slightly wavering tones, to say no. 

Jacques, standing with his back to the sideboard, still 
affected to smile. He had just caught sight of the knife 
lying there. 

" If you want me to kill him," said he, his smile broadening 
into a laugh, "you must give me the knife. I already have 
the watch, and this will help to make me a small museum." 
" Take the knife," she gravely answered. 
And when he had put it in his pocket, as if to carry on 
the joke to the end, he kissed her. 

" And now, good-night," he said. " I shall go and see my 
friend at once, and tell him to wait. If it does not rain next 
Saturday, come and meet me behind the cottage of Sauvagnat, 
eh? Is that understood? And rest assured that we will 
kill no one. It's only a joke." 

Nevertheless, in spite of the late hour, Jacques went down 
towards the port to find the comrade leaving on the morrow. 
He spoke to him of a legacy he might receive, and asked 
for a fortnight before giving a definite answer. Then, on 
his way back towards the station by the great dark avenues, 
he thought the matter over, and felt astonished at what he 
had just done. Had he then resolved to kill Roubaud, since 
he was disposing of his wife and money? No, indeed, he 
had come to no decision, and if he took these precautions, 
it was no doubt in case he should decide. But the recollec- 
tion of Severine entered his mind, the burning pressure of 
her hand, her fixed eyes saying yes, while her lips said no. 



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286 .The Monomaniac 

She evidently wanted him to kill her husband. He felt very 
much troubled. What should he do ? 

When Jacques returned to the Rue Frangpis-Mazeline and 
lay down in his bed, beside that of Pecqueux, who was 
snoring, he could not sleep. Do what he would, his brain 
set to work on this idea of murder, this web of a drama that 
he was arranging, and whose most far-reaching consequences 
he calculated. He thought. He weighed the reasons for, 
and the reasons against. Summing up calmly, without the 
least excitement, after reflection, everything was in favour of 
the crime. Was not Roubaud the sole obstacle to his happi- 
ness ? With Roubaud dead, he would marry S^verine, whom 
he adored. Besides, there was the money — a fortune. 

He would give up his hard handicraft, and in his turn 
become an employer of labour, in that America of which 
he heard his comrades talk as of a country where engine-men 
shovelled in the gold. His new existence, over there, would 
unfold like a dream : a wife who passionately loved him, 
millions to be earned at once, a grand style of living, unlimited 
scope for ambition; in fact, anything he pleased. And to 
realise this dream he had only to make a movement, only 
to suppress a man, the insect, the plant in your way on 
the path, and which you trample on. He was not even 
interesting, this man who had now grown fat and heavy, who 
was plunged in that stupid passion for cards, which had 
destroyed his former energy. Why spare him? There was 
nothing, absolutely nothing to plead in his favour. Every- 
thing condemned him, because in response to each question, 
came the answer that it was to the interest of others he should 
die. To hesitate would be idiotic and cowardly. 

Jacques bounded in his bed, starting at a thought, at 
first vague, and then abruptly so piercing that he felt it 
like a prick in his skull. He, who from childhood desired 
to kill, who was ravaged to the point of torture by the 
horror of that fixed idea, why did he not kill Roubaud? 



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The Monomaniac 287 

Perhaps, on this selected victim, he would for ever assuage 
his thirst for murder; and, in that way, he would not only 
do a good stroke of business, but he would be cured as well. 
Cured, great God ! He became bathed in perspiration. 
He saw himself with the knife in his hand, striking at the 
throat of Roubaud as the latter had struck the President, 
and become satisfied and appeased in proportion as the 
wound bled upon his hands. He would kill him. He was 
resolved to do so, for that would give him his cure, as 
well as the woman he adored, and fortune. As he had 
to kill somebody, since he must kill, he would kill this man, 
with the knowledge at all events that what he did was 
done rationally, by interest and logic. 

Three o'clock in the morning had just struck, when this 
decision was arrived at, and Jacques endeavoured to sleep. 
He was already dozing off when a violent start brought 
him up in his bed in a sitting posture, choking. Kill this 
man ! Great God ! had he the right ? When a fly pestered 
him he crushed it with a smack. One day when a cat 
got between his legs he broke its spine by a kick, without 
wishing to do so, it is true. But this man, his fellow 
creature ! He had to resume all his reasoning to prove to 
himself that he had a right to commit murder — the right 
of the strong who find the weak in their way and devour 
them. It was he whom the wife of the other one loved 
at this hour, and she wanted to be free to marry him 
and bring him what she possessed. 

When two wolves met in the wood, and a she-wolf was 
there, did not the stronger rid himself of the other with 
his fangs? And in ancient times, when men found refuge 
in the caverns, like the wolves, did not the "coveted woman 
belong to that man in the band who could win her in 
the blood of his rivals ? Then, as this was the law of life, 
it should be obeyed, apart from the scruples invented later 
on to regulate existence in common. 



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288 The Monomaniac 

Little by little his right appeared to him absolute, and 
he felt his resolution affirmed. On the morrow he would 
select the spot and hour, and make preparations for the 
deed. Doubtless it would be best to stab Roubaud at 
night on the station premises, during one of his rounds, 
so as to convey the impression that he had fallen a victim 
to some thieves he had surprised. He knew a good 
place, over there behind the coal heaps, if Roubaud could 
only be attracted to the spot. In spite of his desire to 
sleep, he could not help arranging the scene then, debating 
in his mind where he would place himself, how he would 
strike, so as to stretch his victim at his feet ; and insensibly, 
invincibly, as he went into the smallest details, his repugnance 
returned, inner protestation gained the upper hand. 

No, no, he would not deal the blow! It appeared to 
him monstrous, a thing that could not be done, impossible. 
The civilised man within him, influenced by the power 
acquired through education, by the slowly erected and 
indestructible edifice of ideas handed down to him, revolted. 
Kill not ! He had taken in that law at the breast, with the 
milk of generations. His refined brain, furnished with scruples, 
repelled the thought of murder with horror, as soon as he 
began to reason about it. Yes, kill by necessity, instinctively, 
in a fit of passion ; but kill deliberately, by calculation and 
interest, no, he could never, never do it ! 

Dawn was breaking when Jacques succeeded in dozing 
off, but his sleep was so light that the debate continued 
confusedly in his mind, causing him abominable suffering. 
The ensuing days were the most painful of his existence. 
He avoided SeVerine. Dreading her look, he sent her word 
not to come to the appointment on the Saturday. But the 
following Monday he was obliged to meet her; and, as 
he had feared, her great blue eyes, so soft and deep, filled 
him with anguish. She did not refer to the subject, she 
did not make a sign, nor say a word to urge him on, only 



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The Monomaniac 289 

her eyes were full of the thing, questioning, imploring him. 
He hardly knew which way to turn to avoid their impatient 
and reproachful gaze. He always found them fixed on his 
own eyes, in an expression of astonishment that he could 
hesitate to be happy. 

When he kissed her at parting, he abruptly strained her 
to him, to give her to understand that he had resolved to 
act. And so, indeed, he had, until he reached the bottom 
of the stairs and found himself struggling with his conscience 
again. When he saw her, two days later, he was pale with 
confusion, and had the furtive look of a coward who hesitates 
in face of a necessary action. She burst into sobs without 
saying a word, weeping with her arms round his neck, horribly 
unhappy; and he, quite unhinged, felt the utmost contempt 
for himself. He must put an end to it. 

"On Thursday, over there, will you?" she inquired in 
a low voice. 

" Yes, on Thursday I will wait for you," he answered. 

On that particular Thursday the night was very dark, a 
starless sky, opaque and heavy, loaded with mist from the 
sea. Jacques, as usual, arrived the first, and, standing behind 
the cottage of the Sauvagnats, watched for Severine. But 
the gloom was so intense, and she hurried along so lightly, 
that she brushed against him before he caught sight of her, 
making him start. She was already in his arms, and alarmed 
at feeling him tremble, she murmured : 

" Did I frighten you ? " 

" No, no," he replied, " I was expecting you. Let us 
walk on ; no one can see us." 

And with their arms round the waists of one another, 
they strolled slowly over the vacant ground. There were but 
few gas-lamps on this side of the depdt. In some gloomy 
quarters there were none at all; whereas they swarmed 
in the distance, near the station, like a quantity of bright 
sparks. 

19 



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290 The Monomaniac 

Jacques and S^verine walked about for a long time without 
a word. She had rested her head on his shoulder, and 
raised it ever and anon to kiss him on the chin ; while 
he, bending down, returned the kiss on her forehead at 
the roots of her hair. The grave, solitary stroke of one o'clock 
in the morning, had just resounded from air the distant 
churches. If they failed to speak, it was because they felt 
they were both thinking. They were thinking of nothing 
but that one subject. It was impossible for them to be 
together now without finding themselves beset by it. The 
mental debate continued. What was the use of saying 
useless words aloud, as it was necessary to act? When she 
raised herself against him for a caress, she felt the knife, 
which formed a lump in his pocket. Could it be possible 
that he had made up his mind? 

But her thoughts were too much for her, and her lips 
parted in a murmur that was scarcely audible : 

" Just now he came upstairs ; I was wondering what for. 
Then I saw him take his revolver, which he had forgotten. 
He is certainly going to make a round." 

They resumed silence, and it was only twenty paces further 
on that he, in his turn, remarked: 

"Last night some thieves took away the lead from here. 
He will come along presently for sure." 

She gave a little shudder; both became silent, and they 
walked on more slowly. Then she had a doubt : was it really 
the knife that formed the lump in his pocket? Twice she 
stooped down knocking against it to get a better idea. Then, 
being still uncertain, she let her hand drop, and felt It 
was the knife sure enough. And Jacques, understanding 
her thoughts, suddenly strained her to him stammering into 
her ear: 

" He will come, and you shall be free." 

The murder was decided. They no longer seemed to be 
walking. It appeared to them that some strange force sent 



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The Monomaniac 291 

them along just above the ground. Their senses had, all 
at once, become extremely acute, particularly the touch, for 
their hands, resting one in the other, were in pain, and the 
slightest brush of the lips was like a scratch. They also 
heard sounds which were lost a moment before — the rumble, 
the distant puffs of the engines, the muffled shocks, footsteps 
wandering in the depth of the obscurity. And they could see 
into the night ; they distinguished the black spots of objects 
as if a mist had been removed from their eyes, they were 
able to follow the sharp curves described in the air by 
a passing bat. They stopped, motionless, at the corner of a 
heap of coal, ears and eyes on the alert, and with all their 
beings in a state of tension ; they now spoke in whispers. 

" Did you hear that ? " she inquired. " Over there, some- 
body calling." 

"No," he replied, "they're putting a carriage into the 
coach-house." 

" But there, someone is walking on our left," said she. " I 
heard the sound on the gravel." 

"No, no," he answered, "rats are running over the coal 
heaps, and some of the pieces rolled down." 

Several minutes passed. Suddenly it was she who strained 
him to her more closely. 

" There he is ! " she exclaimed. 

" Where ? I can't see him," said he. 

" He has turned round the shed of the slow-train goods 
department," she continued. " He is coming straight towards 
us. Look at his shadow, passing along the white wall ! " 

"Do you think it is? That dark spot? Then he must 
be alone," he said. 

" Yes, alone. He is alone," she repeated. 

And at this decisive moment she passionately threw her- 
self on his neck, she pressed her burning lips to his. It was 
a prolonged embrace, in which she would have wished to 
have conveyed her own blood to him. How she loved him ! 



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292 The Monomaniac 

and how she execrated the other ! Ah ! had she but dared, 
twenty times over she would have done the business herself, 
to spare him the horror ; but her hands were unequal to the 
effort, she felt herself too feeble, it required the fist of a 
man. And this kiss, which was without end, was all she 
could breathe to him of her own courage. 

A locomotive whistled in the distance, casting to the night 
a melancholy lamentation of distress. At regular intervals 
they could hear the loud strokes of a colossal hammer coming 
from an undeterminable direction. The vapour ascending 
from the sea sailed across the sky in chaotic confusion, while 
drifting shreds seemed at moments to extinguish the bright 
sparks of the gas-lamps. When Severine at length removed 
her mouth from his, it seemed as if she had ceased to exist, 
as if all her soul had passed into him. 

Jacques abruptly opened the knife. But with a stifled oath, 
he exclaimed : 

"It's all up! He's off!" 

And so it was. The moving shadow, after approaching 
to within fifty paces of them, had just turned to the left, and 
was retreating with the even step of a night watchman who 
had no cause for alarm. 

Then she pushed him. 

" Go on, go on ! " said she. 

And they both started. He ahead ; she close at his heels. 
They glided behind the man, hunting him down, careful not 
to make a noise. Then as they took a short cut across a 
shunting-line, they found him twenty paces at the most away. 
They had to take advantage of every bit of wall for shelter. 
One false step would have betrayed them. 

"We shall never reach him," said he, in a hollow voice. 
" If he attains the box of the pointsman he will escape." 

She continued, repeating behind him : 

" Go on, go on ! " 

At this minute, surrounded by the vast flat waste ground 



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The Monomaniac 293 

plunged in obscurity, amidst the nocturnal desolation of a great 
railway station, he was resolved to act, as in that solitude 
which is the natural attendant on assassination. And while 
he stealthily hastened his steps, he became excited, reasoning 
with himself, supplying himself with arguments that were to 
make this murder a wise, legitimate action, logically debated 
and decided on. It certainly was a right that he would be 
exercising, the right even of life, as this blood of another was 
indispensable to his own existence. He had merely to plunge 
this knife into the man to win happiness. 

" We shall not get him, we shall not get him," he repeated 
furiously, observing the shadow pass beyond the box of the 
pointsman. " It's all up ! There he is, going off." 

But SeVerine abruptly caught him by the arm with her 
nervous hand, and brought him to a standstill against her. 

" Look ! " she exclaimed, " he's coming back ! " 

Roubaud, indeed, was retracing his steps. He had gone 
to the right, then he returned. Perhaps, behind him, he had 
felt the vague sensation of the murderers on his track. Never- 
theless, he continued to walk at his usual tranquil pace, like 
a conscientious watchman, who will not retire to his quarters 
without having taken a glance everywhere. 

Jacques and SeVerine, pulled up short in their race, no 
longer moved. Chance had placed them right at the angle 
of the heap of coal. They pressed their backs so closely 
to it that they seemed to form part of the black mass. 
There, without a breath, they watched Roubaud advancing 
towards them. They were barely separated from him by 
thirty yards. Each stride lessened the distance, regularly, 
as if timed by the inexorable pendulum of destiny. Another 
twenty, another ten paces, and Jacques would have the man 
before him. He would raise his arm in such a manner and 
plunge the knife in the throat of Roubaud, drawing it from 
right to left so as to stifle his shriek. The seconds seemed 
interminable. Such a flood of thoughts ran through the blank 



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294 The Monomaniac 

in his skull that the measure of time no longer existed. All 
the reasons that had brought him to his determination filed 
past once more. He again distinctly saw the murder, the 
causes and the consequences. Another five steps. His 
resolution, strained fit to break, remained firm. He wanted 
to kill ; he knew why he would kill. 

But at two paces, at one pace, came a downfall ; everything 
gave way within him at a single stroke. No, no ! he would 
not, he could not kill a defenceless man in this way. Reasoning 
would never suffice for murder; it required the instinct to 
bite, the spring that sends the destroyer on the prey, the 
hunger or passion that makes him tear it to pieces. What 
matter if conscience were merely made up of ideas transmitted 
by a slow heredity of justice ! He did not feel that he had 
the right to kill, and do what he would, he was unable to 
persuade himself that he could take it. 

Roubaud passed slowly by. His elbow almost grazed the 
other two in the coal. A breath would have betrayed them ; 
but they remained as dead. The arm did not rise; it did 
not plunge in the knife. No quiver disturbed the dense 
obscurity, not even a shudder. Roubaud was already far, 
ten paces off; but they were still standing there motionless, 
their backs riveted to the black heap. Both were without 
breath, in terror of this man, alone and unarmed, who had 
just brushed past them so peacefully. 

Jacques, choking with rage and shame, gave a sob. 

" I cannot do it ! I cannot do it ! " he repeated. 

He wanted to take Severine to him again, to press against 
her, with the desire to be excused and consoled. She 
escaped without a word. He had stretched out his hands, 
but only to catch her skirt, which slipped from his fingers; 
and he heard nothing, save her light, fleeting footsteps. 
Her sudden disappearance completely undid him, and he 
pursued her for an instant or two ; but in vain. Was she 
then so very angry at his weakness ? Did she despise him ? 



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The Monomaniac 295 

Prudence prevented him rejoining her. When he found him- 
self alone on this extensive flat land, studded with small 
yellow flames of gas, he felt overwhelmed with despair, and 
hastened to leave it, to go and bury his head in his pillow, 
there to forget the abomination of his existence. 

It was a matter of ten days later, towards the end of 
March, that the Roubauds at last triumphed over the Lebleus. 
The railway company had recognised their appeal, supported 
by M. Dabadie, as just; and the more easily did they 
arrive at this conclusion as the famous letter from the 
cashier, undertaking to give up the lodging if a new assistant 
station-master claimed it, had been found by Mademoiselle 
Guichon, while looking over some old accounts in the archives 
of the station. And Madame Lebleu, exasperated at her 
defeat, at once spoke of moving ; as they wanted to kill 
her, she might just as well die now without waiting. 

For three days this memorable removal kept the corridor 
in a fever. Little Madame Moulin, herself usually so retiring, 
whom no one ever saw come in or go out, became implicated 
in the business by carrying a work-table from one lodging 
to the other. But it was particularly Philomene who breathed 
the breath of discord. She had arrived there, to assist, from 
the very commencement, doing up packages, jostling the 
furniture, invading the lodging on the front before the 
tenant had left ; and it was she who pushed her out, amidst 
the going and coming of the two sets of household goods, 
which had got mixed together, in wild confusion, in the 
course of transport. When Philomene had carried off the 
last chair the doors banged; but perceiving a stool, which 
the wife of the cashier had forgotten, she opened again, 
and threw it across the corridor. That was the end. 

Philomene had reached the point of displaying such 
excessive zeal for Jacques and all he loved, that Pecqueux 
was astonished. Feeling suspicious, he asked her, in his 
nasty, sly manner, with his air of a vindictive drunkard, 



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296 The Monomaniac 

whether she was now smitten with his driver, warning her 
that he would settle the account of both of them if he 
ever caught them together. Her fancy for the young man 
had increased, and she acted as a sort of servant to him and 
his sweetheart, in the hope of gaining a little of his affection 
by placing herself between them. 

Life slowly resumed its monotonous course. While Madame 
Lebleu, at the back, riveted to her armchair by rheumatism, 
was dying of spleen, with great tears in her eyes because she 
could see nothing but the zinc roof of the marquee shutting 
out the sky, Severine worked at her interminable bed-covering 
beside one of the windows on the front. Below, she had the 
lively activity of the courtyard, the constant stream of pedes- 
trians and carriages. The forward spring was already turning 
the buds of the great trees that lined the pavements green, 
and beyond, the distant hills of Ingouville displayed their 
wooded slopes, studded with the white spots of country 
houses. 

But she felt astonished to find so little pleasure in the 
realisation of this dream at last, to be there, in this coveted 
apartment, with space, daylight, and sun before her. When 
her charwoman, Mother Simon, grumbled, furious at finding 
herself disturbed in her habits, she lost patience, and at 
times regretted her old hole, as she termed it, where the 
dirt could not be so easily seen. 

Roubaud had simply let matters take their course. He did 
not seem to be aware that he had changed his abode. He 
frequently made mistakes, and only perceived his error on 
finding that his new key would not enter the old lock. He 
absented himself more and more. The irregularity of his 
life continued. Nevertheless, at one moment he seemed to 
brighten up under the influence of a revival of his political 
ideas. Not that they were very clear or very ardent, but 
he had at heart that trouble with the sub-prefect, which had 
almost cost him his position. 



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The Monomaniac 297 

Now that the Empire, which had met with a severe shock at 
the general elections, was passing through a terrible crisis, he 
triumphed, and he repeated that those people would not always 
be the masters. But a friendly warning from M. Dabadie, 
who heard about the matter from Mademoiselle Guichon, in 
whose presence the revolutionary remark had been made, 
sufficed to calm him. As the corridor was quiet, and everyone 
lived at peace, now that Madame Lebleu was drooping with 
sadness, why cause fresh annoyance on the subject of the 
government? Roubaud simply shrugged his shoulders. He 
cared not a fig about politics, nor anything else ! Growing 
fatter and fatter, day by day, and free from remorse, he moved 
along with heavy tread and an air of indifference. 

The feeling of constraint had increased between SeVerine 
and Jacques, since they were able to meet at any time. 
Nothing now interfered with their happiness. He ran up 
to see her by the other staircase whenever he pleased, with- 
out fear of being spied upon. But the recollection of the 
thing that had not been realised, of the deed that both had 
consented to, and wished to see done, and which he failed 
to perform, had created an uneasiness, an insurmountable 
barrier between them. He, coming with the shame of his 
weakness, found her on each occasion more depressed, sick 
at waiting uselessly. Their lips no longer even sought one 
another, for they had exhausted this semi-felicity ; what they 
desired was complete happiness — the departure, the marriage 
over there, the other life. 

One night Jacques found SeVerine in tears, and when she 
perceived him, she did not stop, but sobbed louder, hanging 
round his neck. She had already wept like this, but he had 
appeased her with, an embrace ; whereas now, with her to 
his heart, he felt her ravaged with increasing despair the 
more he pressed her to him. He was quite unhinged. At 
last, taking her head between his two hands, and looking 
at her quite close, into her streaming eyes, he made a vow, 



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298 The Monomaniac 

thoroughly understanding that if she despaired to this extent, 
it was because she felt herself a woman, and in her passive 
gentleness, dared not strike with her own hand. 

" Forgive me ! " said he ; " wait a little longer. I swear to 
you that I will do it shortly, as soon as I can." 

She immediately pressed her lips to his, as if to seal this 
oath, and they enjoyed one of those deep kisses in which 
they mingled one with the other, in the communion of their 
flesh. 



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CHAPTER X 

AUNT PHASIE died, in a final convulsion, at nine o'clock 
on Thursday evening; and Misard, standing at the 
bedside, tried in vain to close her lids. The eyes obstinately 
remained open. The head had become rigid, and was slightly 
inclined over the shoulder, as if looking about the room, 
while a contraction of the lips seemed to have curled them 
upward in a jeering smile. A single candle, stuck on the 
corner of a table near her, lighted the surroundings; and 
the trains passing by, full speed, in ignorance of the corpse 
being there, made it quiver for a second or two in the 
vacillating light. 

Misard, to get rid of Flore, at once sent her off to Doinville 
to apprise the authorities of the decease. She could not 
be back until eleven o'clock, so that he had two hours before 
him. He first of all quietly cut himself a slice of bread, 
for he felt hungry, having gone without his dinner on account 
of the death agony, which seemed interminable. And he 
ate standing up, going and coming, arranging one thing and 
another about the room. Fits of coughing brought him to 
a standstill, bent him double. He was half dead himself. 
So thin, so puny, with his leaden eyes and discoloured hair, 
that he did not seem likely to enjoy his victory for long. 

No matter, he had devoured this buxom wife, this tall, hand- 
some woman, as the insect eats down the oak. She was on 
her back, polished off, reduced to nothing, and he still lasted. 
But why had she been so obstinate? She had tried to be 
cunning ; so much the worse for her. When a married couple 

399 

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300 The Monomaniac 

play the game of seeing which shall bury the other, without 
putting anyone in the secret, it is necessary to keep a sharp 
look out. He was proud of his achievement, and chuckled 
to himself as if it were a good joke. 

At that instant an express train swept by, enveloping the 
low habitation in such a gust of tempest, that in spite of 
his habit, he turned towards the window with a start. Ah ! 
yes, that constant flood, that mass of people coming from 
every quarter, who knew nothing about what they crushed 
on the road, and did not care, in such a hurry were they to 
go to the devil ! And turning round again, in the oppressive 
silence, he met the two wide open eyes of the corpse, whose 
steady pupils seemed to follow each of his movements, while 
the corners of the mouth curled upward in a smile. 

Misard, usually so phlegmatic, made a slight movement 
of anger. He thoroughly understood ; she was saying to him : 
" Search ! search ! " But surely she could not have taken her 
1,000 frcs. away with her; and now that she no longer 
existed, he would end by finding them. Ought she not 
to have given them up willingly? It would have prevented 
all this annoyance. The eyes followed him everywhere. 
Search! search! 

He now ferreted all over this room, which he had not 
dared rout out so long as she lived. First of all, in the 
cupboard. He took the keys from under the bolster, upset 
the shelves loaded with linen, emptied the two drawers, pulled 
them out even, to ascertain if they concealed a hiding-place. 
No, nothing ! After that, he thought of the night-table. He 
unglued the marble top and turned it over, but to no purpose. 
With a flat rule he probed behind the chimney glass, one 
of those thin glasses sold in the fairs, that was fastened to 
the wall by a couple of nails ; but only to draw out a cobweb 
black with dust. Search ! search ! 

Then to escape those wide-open eyes which he felt 
resting on him, he sank down on all fours, tapping lightly 



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The Monomaniac 3 QI 

on the tiles with his knuckles, listening whether some 
resonance would not reveal a hole. Several tiles being loose, 
he tore them up. There was nothing, still nothing ! When 
he rose to his feet again, the eyes once more caught him. 
He wheeled round, wishing to stare straight into the fixed 
orbs of the dead woman, who, from the corners of her curled- 
up lips, seemed to accentuate her terrible laugh. There could 
be no doubt about it, she was mocking him. Search ! 
search ! 

He began to feel feverish. A suspicion came upon him, 
a sacrilegious idea, that made his livid countenance grow 
paler still, and he approached the corpse. What had made 
him think that she could surely not have taken her 1,000 frcs. 
away with her? Perhaps, after all, she was carrying them 
off. And he had the courage to uncover, to undress, and 
search the body, as she told him to search. He looked 
beneath her, behind the nape of her neck, everywhere. The 
bedding was all upset. He buried his arm in the paillasse 
up to the shoulder, and found nothing. Search ! search ! 
And the head of the dead woman fell back on the pillow, 
which was all in disorder, with the pupils of her bantering 
eyes still observing him. 

As Misard, furious and trembling, tried to arrange the 
bed, Flore came in, on her return from Doinville. 

" It will be for the day after to-morrow, at eleven o'clock," 
said she. 

She spoke of the burial. She understood at a glance 
what kind of work had made Misard lose his breath during 
her absence, and she made a gesture of disdainful indifference. 

"You may just as well give it up," said she. "You'll 
never find them." 

Imagining she also was braving him, he advanced towards 
her with set teeth. 

" She gave them you, or you know where they are ? " said 
he inquiringly. 



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302 The Monomaniac 

The idea that her mother could have given her 1,000 frcs. 
to anyone, even to her daughter, made her shrug her shoulders. 

"Ah! to blazes! gave them/' she replied; "yes, gave 
them to the earth ! Look, they are there ! You can search." 

And, with a broad gesture, she indicated the entire house, 
the garden with its well, the metal way, all the vast country. 
Yes, somewhere about there, at the bottom of a hole, in 
a place where none would ever find them. Then, while 
Misard, beside himself with anxiety, began twisting and 
turning the furniture about again, sounding the walls, without 
showing any constraint at her presence, the young girl, 
standing before the window, continued in a subdued voice : 

" Oh ! it is so mild outside. Such a lovely night ! I 
walked quick. The stars make it like broad daylight. 
To-morrow, how beautiful it will be at sunrise!" 

Flore remained for an instant at the window, with her 
eyes on the serene country, stirred by this first gentle 
warmth of April, from which she had just returned thoughtful, 
and suffering more acutely from her vivified torment. But 
when she heard Misard leave the apartment, and continue 
his tenacious search in the adjoining rooms, she, in her 
turn, approached the bed, seating herself with her eyes on 
her mother. The candle continued burning at the corner 
of the table, with a long, motionless flame. A passing 
train jolted the house. 

Flore had resolved to remain there all night, and she 
sat pondering. First of all, the sight of the dead woman 
drew her from her fixed idea, from the thing that haunted 
her, which she had been debating in her mind beneath 
the stars, in the peaceful obscurity, all the way from Doinville. 
Surprise now set her suffering at rest. Why had she not 
displayed more grief at the death of her mother? And 
why, at this moment even, did she not shed tears? 

Indeed, she loved her well, notwithstanding her shyness 
of a great, silent girl, who was for ever breaking away 



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The Monomaniac 303 

beating about the fields, as soon as released from duty. 
Twenty times over during the last crisis which was to kill 
her mother, she had come and sat there to implore her to 
call in a doctor; for she guessed what Misard was after, 
and was in hopes that fear would stop him. But she had 
never been able to obtain anything more from the invalid 
than a furious No. It seemed as if her mother took pride 
in accepting no assistance in the struggle, certain of the 
victory in spite of everything, as she carried off the cash ; 
and then Flore ceased to interfere. Beset by her own 
chagrin, she disappeared, careering hither and thither to 
forget. 

Assuredly this was what barred her heart When a person 
has too keen a trouble, there is no room for another. Her 
mother had gone ; she saw her there, destroyed, and so pallid, 
without being able to feel any more sad, notwithstanding 
her efforts. Call in the gendarmes ! Denounce Misard ! 
What would be the use of it, as there was about to be a 
general upheaval ? And, little by little, invincibly, although 
her eyes remained fixed on the dead body, she ceased to 
perceive it. She returned to her own inner vision, occupied 
entirely by the idea that had planted itself in her brain, alive 
to nothing but the heavy shock of the trains, whose passage 
told her the time. 

The approaching thunder of a slow train from Paris could 
be heard for an instant or two in the distance. When the 
locomotive at last flew by before the window, with its light, 
there came a flash, a perfect blaze in the room. 

"Eighteen minutes past one," thought Flore. "Seven 
hours more. This morning at 8.16 they will come past." 

Every week for months she had been worried by this 
expectation. She knew that on Friday morning the express 
driven by Jacques also took Severine to Paris, and tortured 
by jealousy, she only lived, as it were, to watch them. Oh ! 
that train flying along, and the abominable sensation she felt 



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304 The Monomaniac 

at being unable to cling on to the last carriage, so as to 
be also borne away ! She fancied that all these wheels were 
cutting up her heart She suffered so keenly that one night, 
having hidden herself, she prepared to write to the judicial 
authorities; for it would be all over if she could get this 
woman arrested. But, with the pen in her hand, she could 
never set the matter down. And, besides, would the autho- 
rities listen to her? All those fine people must be working 
together. Perhaps they would even put her in prison, as 
they had done with Cabuche. 

No; she wanted to avenge herself, and she would do so 
alone, without the assistance of anyone. It was not even 
a thought of vengeance, as she understood the word, the idea 
of doing injury to cure herself. She felt the need of finishing 
with the matter, of upsetting everything, as if thunder and 
lightning had swept the couple away. Being very proud, 
more solidly built, and handsomer than the other, she felt 
convinced of her firm right to be loved ; and when she went 
off alone along the paths of this abandoned district, with 
her heavy helmet of light hair, ever bare, she would have 
liked to come face to face with that other one, so as to settle 
their quarrel at the corner of a wood, after the manner of 
two hostile warrior women. Never yet had a man touched 
her ; she thrashed the males, and that constituted her in- 
vincible strength. Therefore, she would be victorious. 

The week before, this idea had suddenly been planted, 
driven into her head as by the blow of a hammer, come 
from she knew not where : kill them, so that they might 
no longer pass by, no longer go there together. She did not 
reason, she obeyed the savage instinct of destruction. When 
a thorn entered her flesh, she plucked it out. She would have 
cut off her finger. Kill them, kill them the first time they 
passed; and to do that, upset the train, drag a sleeper 
across the line, tear up a rail, smash everything. He, on 
his engine, would certainly remain there, stretched out; 



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The Monomaniac 305 

the woman, always in the first carriage, so as to be nearer 
to him, could not escape; as for the others, that constant 
stream of passengers, she had not even a thought. They 
did not count, she did not know them! And at every 
hour she was beset by this idea of destroying the train, 
of making this huge sacrifice of lives. What she desired 
was an unique catastrophe, sufficiently great, sufficiently deep 
in human gore and suffering, for her to bathe therein her 
enormous heart swollen with tears. 

Nevertheless, on the Friday morning, she had given way, 
not having yet decided at what spot nor in what manner 
she would remove a rail. But the same night, being off 
duty, she had an idea, and went prowling through the 
tunnel as far as the Dieppe embranchment. This was one 
of her walks, this trip through the subterranean passage, a 
good half league in length, along this vaulted avenue, quite 
straight, where she felt the emotion of trains with their 
blinding lights rolling over her. Each time, she had a 
narrow escape of being cut to pieces, and it must have been 
the peril that attracted her there in a spirit of bravado. 

But on this particular night, having escaped the vigilance 
of the watchman and advanced to the middle of the tunnel, 
keeping to the left, so as to make sure that any train 
coming towards her would pass on her right, she had the 
imprudence to face about, just to follow the lights of a 
train on the way to Havre ; and when she resumed walking, 
a false step having made her swing round again, she lost 
all knowledge of the direction in which the red lights had 
just disappeared. 

Notwithstanding her courage, she stopped, still dizzy with 
the clatter of the wheels, her hands cold, her bare hair 
starting up in a breath of terror. She now imagined that 
when another train came along, she would not know whether 
it was an up or a down train. With an effort she endeavoured 
to retain her reason, to remember, to think the matter 



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306 The Monomaniac 

over. Then, all at once, terror sent her along, haphazard, 
straight before her, at a frantic pace. No, no ! she would 
not be killed before she had killed the other two ! 

Her feet were caught in the rails, she slipped, fell, rose 
up, and ran faster than before. She became affected with 
tunnel madness. The walls seemed drawing close to one 
another to squeeze her, the vaulted roof echoed imaginary 
sounds, menacing utterances, formidable roars. At every 
moment she turned her head, fancying she felt the burning 
steam of an engine on her neck. Twice the sudden con- 
viction that she had made a mistake, that she would be 
killed from the end she was fleeing to, made her at a 
bound change the direction of her flight. 

And she was tearing onward, onward, when in front of 
her, in the distance, appeared a star, a round flaming eye, 
increasing in size. But she resisted the intense temptation 
to again retrace her steps. The eye became a lighted 
brazier, the mouth of a devouring furnace. Blinded, she 
sprang to the left, at hazard; and the train passed, like 
a clap of thunder, doing nothing more than beat her 
cheek with its tempestuous blast of wind. Five minutes 
later, she issued from the Malaunay end of the tunnel 
safe and sound. 

It was then nine o'clock, a few minutes more and the 
Paris express would be there. She immediately continued 
her excursion at a walking pace, to the Dieppe embranchment, 
a matter of two hundred yards or so further on, examining 
the metals in search of something that might serve her 
purpose. It so happened that her friend Ozil had just 
switched a ballast train on to the Dieppe line, which was 
undergoing repair, and it was standing there. In a sudden 
flash of enlightenment she conceived a plan : simply prevent 
the pointsman from putting the switch-tongue back on the 
Havre line, so that the express would dash into the ballast 
train. 



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The Monomaniac 307 

She felt a friendship for this Ozil since the day she had 
nearly broken his head with a blow from a stick, and she 
was fond of paying him unexpected visits like this, running 
through the tunnel after the fashion of a goat escaped from 
its mountain. An old soldier, very thin and little talkative, 
a slave to duty, his eyes ever on the look-out, day and 
night, he had not yet been guilty of a single act of negligence. 
Only this wild creature, who had beaten him, sturdy as a 
young man, could make him do what she pleased merely 
by beckoning to him with her little finger. 

And so, on this particular night, when she approached 
his box in the dark, calling him outside, he went to her, 
forgetting everything. She made his head swim as she led 
him out into the country, relating complicated tales about 
her mother being ill, and that she would not remain at La 
Croix-de-Maufras if she lost her. Her ear caught the roar 
of the express in the distance, leaving Malaunay, approaching 
at full speed. And when she felt it hard by, she turned 
round to look. But she had been reckoning without the 
new connecting apparatus : the locomotive, in passing on to 
the Dieppe line, had itself just caused the danger signal to 
be displayed ; and the driver was able to stop at a few paces 
from the ballast train. 

Ozil, with the shout of a man awakened in a house tumbling 
down, regained his box at a run ; while Flore, stiff and 
motionless, watched the manoeuvre necessitated by the 
accident in the darkness of night. Two days later, the 
pointsman, who had been removed, having no suspicion of 
her duplicity, called to bid her farewell, imploring her to 
join him as soon as she lost her mother. So her plot came 
to nothing, and she would have to think of something else. 

At this moment, under the influence of the recollection 
she had evoked, the mist of reverie clouding her eyes 
disappeared, and again she perceived the corpse in the light 
of the yellow flame of the candle. Her mother was no more. 



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308 The Monomaniac 

Should she leave, and wed Ozil, who wanted her, and would 
perhaps make her happy ? All her being revolted at the idea. 
No, no. If she had the cowardice to allow the other two 
to live and to live herself, she would prefer to tramp the 
roads, to take a situation as servant, rather than belong to 
a man she did not love. And a sound, to which she was 
unaccustomed, having caused her to listen, she understood 
that Misard with a mattock was engaged in excavating the 
beaten earth floor of the kitchen. He was going mad in 
his search for the hoard ; he would have gutted the house. 
No, she would not remain with this one either. What was 
she going to do? There came a blast of wind, the walls 
vibrated, and on the pallid countenance of the corpse passed 
the reflex of a furnace, conveying a blood-like hue to the 
open eyes, and to the ironic rictus of the lips. It was the 
last slow train from Paris, with its ponderous, sluggish engine. 

Flore had turned her head, and looked at the stars shining 
in the serenity of this spring night. 

"Ten minutes past three," she murmured. "Another 
five hours, and they will pass." 

She would begin over again; her suffering was too great 
To see them like this each week was more than her strength 
could bear. Now that she was sure of not having Jacques 
to herself alone, she preferred that he should no longer 
exist, that there should be nothing. And the aspect of this 
lugubrious room, where she sat watching, imbued her with 
mournful suffering, and made her feel an increasing need to 
annihilate everything. As there remained no one who loved 
her, the others could go with her mother. As for corpses, 
there would be more and more still, and they could carry 
them all away at the same time. Her sister was dead, her 
mother was dead, her love was dead. What could she do ? 
Remain alone ? Whether she stayed or left, she would always 
be alone, while the others would be two together. No, no ! 
let everything go to smash rather than that. Let death, 



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The Monomaniac 309 

who was there in this room, blow on the line and sweep 
the people away. 

Then, with her mind made up after this long debate 
with herself, she proceeded to think out the best way of 
putting her design into execution. And she returned to 
the idea of removing a rail. This would be the surest and 
most practical plan, and could be easily carried out ; she had 
only to drive away the chairs with a hammer, and then raise 
the rail from the sleepers. She had the tools. Nobody 
would see her in this deserted district. A good spot to 
select would certainly be beyond the cutting, on the way 
to Barentin, at the curve which crossed a dale on an embank- 
ment thirty or thirty-five feet high. There the train would 
for sure run off the line, and the fall would be terrible. 

But the calculation of time, which then occupied her, 
made her anxious. On the up-line, before the Havre express 
came by at 8.16, there was only a slow train at 7.55. This 
would therefore give her twenty minutes to do the work, 
which was sufficient. Only, between the regular trains, they 
often dispatched others that were unforeseen, loaded with 
goods, particularly at moments when quantities of cargo 
arrived. Then what a useless risk she would be incurring ! 
How could she tell beforehand whether it would be the 
express that would come to smash there? For a long time 
she turned the probabilities over in her head. It was still 
night. The candle continued to burn, bathed in tallow, with 
a long, smutty wick which she had ceased to snuff. 

Just as a goods train arrived from Rouen, Misard returned. 
His hands were covered with dirt, for he had been rummaging 
in the woodhouse, and he was out of breath, distracted at 
his vain efforts to lay hands on the treasure. He had become 
so feverish with impotent rage, that he renewed his search 
under the articles of furniture, up the chimney, everywhere. 
There was no end to the interminable train, with the regular 
fracas of its great wheels, which at each shock jolted the 



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310 The Monomaniac 

dead woman in her bed. Misard, stretching out his arm 
to take down a small picture, hanging against the wall, again 
met the open eyes following his motions, * while the lips 
seemed to move with their laugh. 

He became livid. He was shivering, and stuttered out in 
terrific anger : 

" Yes, yes ; search ! search ! Never mind, I shall find it, 
even if I have to turn over every stone in the house, and 
every clod of ground in the neighbourhood I " 

The black train had passed by in the obscurity, with 
painful slowness, and the dead woman, who had become 
motionless again, continued looking at her husband so jeer- 
ingly, so certain of conquering, that he disappeared a second 
time, leaving the door open. Flore, wandering in her re- 
flections, had risen and closed the door, so that this man 
might not return to disturb her mother; and she felt as- 
tonished to hear herself saying aloud : 

" Ten minutes beforehand will do." 

In fact, she would have time in ten minutes. If no train 
was signalled ten minutes before the express, she could set 
to work. The matter being now settled, certain, her anxiety 
ceased, and she was very calm. 

Day broke at about five o'clock, a fresh dawn, of pure 
limpidity. In spite of the slightly sharp cold, she set the 
window wide open, and the delicious morning air entered 
the lugubrious room, full of smoke and an odour of the dead. 
The sun was still below the horizon, behind a hillock crowned 
by trees ; but it appeared with a rosy tint, streaming over 
the slopes, pouring into the deep roads, amidst the lively 
gaiety of the earth at each new spring. She had not been 
mistaken on the previous evening : it would be fine on that 
particular morning, one of those days of youth and radiant 
health on which one delights in life. How lovely it would 
be to set out along the goat paths at her own free will, 
in this deserted country among the continuous hills cut 



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The Monomaniac 311 

up by narrow dales ! And when she turned round, facing 
the room, she was surprised to see the candle looking almost 
as if gone out, and with naught but a pale tear forming a 
spot in the broad daylight. The dead woman seemed now 
to be gazing on the line where the trains continued crossing 
one another, without even noticing this wan glimmer of a 
taper beside the corpse. 

It was not until daylight that Flore resumed duty, and 
she only quitted the room for the slow train from Paris at 
6.12. Misard, at six o'clock, had also relieved his colleague, 
the night signalman. It was at the sound of his horn that 
she had come and placed herself before the gate, the flag 
in her hand. She followed the train an instant with her eyes. 
"Another two hours," thought she aloud. 
Her mother had no further need of anybody, and hence- 
forth she experienced invincible repugnance to return to 
the room. It was all over, she had kissed her, and now 
she could dispose of her own existence and the lives of 
others. Usually, between the trains, she escaped and 
disappeared; but on this particular morning a feeling of 
interest seemed to keep her at her post near the gate on 
a bench — a simple plank that happened to be beside 
the line. The sun was ascending on the horizon, a warm 
shower of gold fell into the pure air; and she did not 
move, but sat there wrapped in this sweetness, in the midst 
of the vast country all thrilling with the sap of April. 

For a moment she watched Misard in his wooden hut, 
on the other side of the line. He was visibly agitated, not 
having had his customary sleep. He went out, went in, 
worked his apparatus with a nervous hand, casting constant 
glances towards the house, as if his spirit had remained there 
and was still searching. Then she forgot him, was un- 
aware even of him being there. She was all expectant, 
absorbed, her lips speechless, her face rigid, her eyes fixed 
on the end of the line in the direction of Barentin. And 



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3i2 The Monomaniac 

over there, in the gaiety of the sun, a vision must have risen 
up for her, on which the stubborn savageness of her look 
obstinately dwelt 

Minutes slipped away, but Flore did not move. At last, 
at 7SS» when Misard with a couple of blasts from his horn 
signalled the slow train from Havre on the up-line, she rose, 
closed the gate, and planted herself before it, her flag in 
her fist. The train was already fading away in the distance, 
after sending a tremor through the ground; and it could be 
heard plunging into the tunnel, where the sound ceased. 
She had not gone back to the bench, but remained on her 
feet again counting each minute. If no goods train was 
signalled within ten minutes, she would run over there 
beyond the cutting, and remove a rail. 

She was very calm, only her chest felt a little tight under 
the enormous weight of the deed. But, at this moment, 
the thought that Jacques and SeVerine were approaching, 
that they would pass by again if she did not stop them, 
sufficed to make her inexorably blind and deaf in her 
resolution, without even giving the matter any further con- 
sideration ; it was the irrevocable, the blow from the paw 
of the she-wolf that breaks the back of the prey on the way. 
In the egotism of her vengeance, she saw only the two 
mutilated bodies, without troubling about the crowd, that 
stream of unknown people who had been filing past before 
her for years. There would be dead bodies, blood, the 
sun would perhaps be obscured by them, that sun whose 
tender gaiety irritated her. 

Two minutes more, one minute more, and she would be 
starting. Indeed, she was starting, when some heavy jolting 
on the B£court road stopped her. A cart, no doubt a stone 
dray; the carter would ask her to let him through. She 
would have to open the gate, engage in conversation, and 
remain there: it would be impossible for her to act, and 
she would miss her chance. With an enraged gesture of 



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The Monomaniac 313 

indifference, she ran off, leaving her post, abandoning the 
carter with his dray to do the best he could. But the 
lash of a whip cracked in the matutinal air, and a voice cried 
out gaily : 

'•Hey! Flore!" 

It was Cabuche. She stopped short, in her first spring, 
before the gate itself. 

"What's up?" he continued. "Are you still asleep with 
this beautiful sun shining ? Quick ! let me get through before 
the express ! " 

She was completely undone. It was all over. The other 
two would proceed to their happiness without her being able 
to find any means to crush them here. And as she slowly 
opened the old, half-rotten gate, whose iron-work grated in 
its rust, she looked about her furiously for an object, some- 
thing she could cast across the line; and she was in such 
despair, that she would have stretched her own self there, 
had she thought her bones hard enough to send the engine 
off the metals. 

But her glance had just fallen on the dray, a heavy, low 
conveyance, loaded with two blocks of stone, which five strong 
horses found difficulty in drawing. These two enormous 
masses, high and broad, a colossal lump fit to bar the line, 
stood there before her ; and abruptly a look of covetousness 
came into her eyes, accompanied by a mad desire to take 
and place them on the rails. The gate was wide open, the 
five steaming, panting cattle were there waiting. 

"What is the matter with you this morning?" resumed 
Cabuche. "You look quite funny." 

Then Flore spoke. 

" My mother died last night," said she. 

He uttered a friendly exclamation of grief, and putting 
down his whip, took both her hands and pressed them in 
his own. 

" Oh ! my poor Flore ! " he sighed. " It is only what one 



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314 The Monomaniac 

might have expected for a long time, but it is hard all the 
same. Then she is there. I will go and look at her, for 
we should have ended by agreeing, but for this misfortune." 

He walked slowly with her to the house, but on the thresh- 
old he cast a glance towards his horses. In one sentence 
she set his mind at rest. 

"There is no fear of them moving," she said. "And, 
besides, the express is a long way off." 

She lied. Her experienced ear had just caught, in the 
gentle rustle of the country, the sound of the express leaving 
Barentin station. Another five minutes, and it would be 
there. It would issue from the cutting at a hundred yards 
from the level crossing. 

While the quarryman stood in the room of the dead 
woman, feeling very much affected, with his thoughts 
adverting to Louisette and oblivious of everything else, 
Flore remained outside, in front of the window, listening to 
the distant regular puffing of the engine as it approached 
nearer and nearer. Suddenly she remembered Misard: he 
would see her, he would prevent her ; and she felt a pang 
in the chest when, turning round, she could not perceive 
him in his box. But she discovered him on the other side 
of the house, digging up the ground at the foot of the 
masonry round the well, unable to overcome his searching 
mania, and doubtless all at once taken with the conviction 
that the hoard must be there. Entirely absorbed by his 
blind, sullen passion, he searched, searched. And this was 
her last excitation. Events themselves urged her on. One 
of the horses began to neigh, while the locomotive, at the 
other end of the cutting, puffed very loudly, like a person 
hastening along in a hurry. 

"Ill go and keep them quiet," said Flore to Cabuche. 
" Don't be afraid." 

She sprang forward, grasped the leader of the team by 
the bit, and pulled with all her strapping strength of a 



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The Monomaniac 315 

wrestler. The horses strained. For an instant the dray, 
heavy with its enormous load, oscillated without advancing ; 
but, as if she had harnessed herself to it like an extra animal, 
it at last moved and came across the line. It was right on the 
rails as the express, a hundred yards away, issued from the 
cutting. Then to stop the dray, lest it should pass over, 
she arrested the further progress of the team with a sudden 
jerk requiring a superhuman effort that made her joints crack. 

She who, it will be remembered, had her legend, of whom 
people related extraordinary feats of strength — the truck 
shooting down an incline, which she had brought to a stand- 
still as it ran, the cart she had pushed across the metals, and 
thus saved from a train — she accomplished this action now. 
In her iron grip she held back those five horses, rearing 
and neighing with the instinct of peril. 

Barely ten seconds passed, but they were seconds of 
inconceivable terror. The two colossal stones seemed to bar 
the view. The locomotive came gliding along with its pale 
brass and glittering steel, arriving at its smooth, fulminating 
pace in the golden beams of the beautiful morning. The 
inevitable was there, nothing in the world could now prevent 
the smash. And the interval seemed interminable. 

Misard, who had bounded back to his box, yelled with 
his arms in the air, shaking his fists in the senseless deter- 
mination to warn the driver and stop the train. Cabuche, 
who had quitted the house at the sound of the wheels and 
the neighing of the horses, rushed forward, also yelling, to 
make the animals go on. But Flore, who had flung herself 
on one side, restrained him, which saved his life. He fancied 
that she had not been strong enough to master the horses, 
that it was they who had dragged her along. And he 
taxed himself with carelessness, sobbing in a splutter of 
despairing terror; while she, motionless, standing at her full 
height, her eyes like live coal and wide open, looked on. 
At the same moment, as the front of the engine was about 



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316 The Monomaniac 

to touch the blocks of stone, when there remained perhaps 
only three feet to run, during this inappreciable time, she 
distinctly saw Jacques, with his hand on the reversing-wheel. 
He had turned towards her, and their eyes met in a gaze 
that she found inordinately long. 

On that particular morning Jacques had smiled at Severine, 
when she came down on to the platform at Havre for the 
express. What was the use of spoiling his life with night- 
mares? Why not take advantage of the happy days when 
they came ? All would perhaps come right in the end. And, 
resolved to enjoy himself on this day, at all events, he was 
making plans in his head, dreaming of taking her to lunch at 
a restaurant. And so, as she cast him a sorrowful glance, 
because there was not a first-class carriage at the head of 
the train, and she was forced to find a seat a long way off 
him at the end, he wished to console her by smiling merrily. 
They would arrive together, and make up for being separated. 
Indeed, after leaning over the rail to see her enter a compart- 
ment right at the extremity of the train, he had pushed his 
good humour so far as to joke with the headguard, Henri 
Dauvergne, whom he knew to be in love with her. 

The preceding week he fancied he had noticed that the 
guard was becoming bold, and that she encouraged him, by 
way of diversion, requiring relief from the atrocious existence 
she had formed for herself. And Jacques inquired of Henri 
who it was he had been sending kisses to in the air on the 
previous evening, when hiding behind one of the elms in 
the entrance yard. This elicited a loud laugh from Pecqueux, 
engaged in making up the fire of La Lison, which was 
smoking, and all ready to set out. 

The express ran from Havre to Barentin at its regular 
speed and without incident. It was Henri who first signalled 
the dray across the line, from his look-out at the top of his 
box, on issuing from the cutting. The van next to the tender 
was crammed with luggage, for the train carried a large 



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The Monomaniac 317 

number of passengers, who had landed from a mail-boat the 
previous evening. The headguard, very badly off for space, 
in the midst of this huge pile of trunks and portmanteaux, 
swaying to and fro in the vibration, had been standing at his 
desk classing waybills ; and the small bottle of ink, suspended 
from a nail, never ceased swinging from side to side. 

After passing the stations where he put out luggage, he 
had four or five minutes' writing to do. Two travellers had 
got down at Barentin, and he had just got his papers in order, 
when, ascending and seating himself in his look-out, he cast 
a glance back and front along the line in accordance with 
his custom. It was his habit to pass all his spare time seated 
in this glazed sentry-box on the watch. The tender hid the 
driver, but thanks to his elevated position, he could often 
see further and sooner than the latter. And so, whilst the 
train was still bending round in the cutting, he perceived the 
obstacle ahead. His astonishment was such that, in his 
terror, he lost command of his limbs, and, for an instant, even 
doubted what he saw. A few seconds were in consequence 
lost. The train was already out of the cutting, and a loud 
cry arose from the engine, when he made up his mind to 
pull the cord of the alarm-bell dangling in front of him. 

Jacques, at this supreme moment, with his hand on the 
reversing-wheel, was looking without seeing, in a minute of 
absent-mindedness. He was thinking of confused and 
distant matters, from which the image of Severine, even, 
had faded. The violent swinging and riot of the bell, the 
yells of Pecqueux behind him, brought him back to reality. 

Pecqueux, who had raised the rod of the ash-pan, being 
dissatisfied with the draught, had caught sight of the scene 
on ahead as he leant over the rail to make sure of the speed. 
And Jacques, pale as death, saw and understood everything : 
the stone dray across the line, the engine tearing along, 
the frightful shock; and he witnessed it all with such 
penetrating distinctness, that he could even distinguish the 



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3 l8 * The Monomaniac 

grain in the two stones, while he already felt the concussion 
of the smash in his bones. He had violently turned round 
the reversing-wheel, closed the regulator, tightened the brake. 
He had reversed the engine, and was hanging unconsciously 
with one hand to the whistle handle, in the furious, but 
impotent determination to give warning, to have the colossal 
barricade in front removed. 

But in the middle of this terrible scream of distress that 
rent the air, La Lison refused to obey. It continued its 
course in spite of all, barely slackening in speed. Since it 
had lost its power of starting off smoothly and its excellent 
vaporisation, in the snowstorm, it was no longer the docile 
engine of former days. It had now become whimsical and 
intractable, like an old woman with her chest ruined by a 
chill. It panted, resisted the brake, and still went on and 
on, in the ponderous obstinacy of its huge mass. Pecqueux, 
maddened with fright, sprang off. Jacques waited, inflexible, 
at his post, with the fingers of his right hand clutching the 
reversing-wheel, and those of his left resting on the whistle 
handle, unaware of what he was doing. And La Lison, 
smoking, puffing, amidst this piercing screech that never 
ceased, dashed against the stone dray with the enormous 
weight of the thirteen carriages it dragged behind it. 

Then, eighty feet distant, beside the line, where they stood 
riveted in terror, Misard and Cabuche with their arms in the 
air, Flore with her eyes starting from her head, witnessed this 
frightful scene : the front part of the train rising up almost 
perpendicularly, seven carriages ascending one on the top 
of the other, to fall back with an abominable crash in a 
confused downfall of wreckage. The first three carriages 
were reduced to atoms, the four others formed a mountain, 
an entanglement of staved-in roofs, broken wheels, doors, 
chains, buffers, interspersed with pieces of glass.. And what 
had been heard particularly, was the pounding of the machine 
against the stones — a heavy crash terminating in a cry of 



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The Monomaniac 319 

agony. La Lison, ripped open, toppled over to the left, on 
the other side of the stone dray; while the stones, split 
asunder, flew about in splinters as in the explosion of a mine, 
and four out of the five horses, bowled over and dragged 
along the ground, were killed on the spot. The back half 
of the train, comprising six carriages, remained intact They 
had come to a standstill without even leaving the metals. 

Cries arose from the wreckage, appeals in words that were 
drowned by inarticulate howls, like those of wild beasts. 

"Help! help! Oh! my God! I am dying! Help! 
help ! * 

In the midst of the riot and confusion of the smash, 
nothing could be heard or seen distinctly. La Lison, thrown 
over on the side, the under part rent open, was losing steam 
in rumbling puffs, similar to a furious rattle in the throat of 
a giant, at places where taps had been torn" away, and where 
pipes had burst. An inexhaustible white cloud of vapour 
rolled round and round just on a level with the ground; 
while the embers, red as blood, fallen from the fire-box, added 
their black smoke. The chimney, in the violence of the 
shock, had entered the ground. At the place where it had 
stood, the frame was broken, bending the two fr£me-plates ; 
and with the wheels in the air, similar to a monstrous steed, 
torn open by some formidable rip of a horn, La Lison 
displayed its twisted connecting-rods, its broken cylinders, 
its slide valves and their eccentrics flattened out — one huge, 
frightful wound, gaping in the open air, whence vitality 
continued issuing with the fracas of enraged despair. Beside 
the locomotive lay the horse, which had not been killed 
at once, with his two fore hoofs cut off and his belly ripped 
up. By his erect head, the neck stiffened in a spasm of 
atrocious pain, he could be perceived rattling the death agony 
with a terrible neigh, which failed to reach the ear in the 
thunder of the agonising engine. 

The cries were stifled, unheard, lost, wafted away. 



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320 The Monomaniac 

" Save me ! Kill me ! I am suffering too atrociously. 
Kill me ! Kill me at once ! " 

In this deafening tumult, and blinding smoke, the doors 
of the carriages remaining intact opened, and a swarm 
of bewildered travellers sprang out. Falling down on the 
line, they struggled with feet and fists to rise again. Then 
as soon as they found themselves on firm ground, with the 
open country before them, they fled as fast as they could 
run, clearing the hedge, cutting across country, ceding to the 
sole instinct of getting far away from the danger, very, very 
far. Howling women and men disappeared in the depths 
of the woods. 

Severine, trampled under foot, with her hair about her 
back and her gown in shreds, at last got free ; but she did 
not flee. Running towards the roaring engine, she found 
herself face to face with Pecqueux. 

" Jacques ! Jacques ! He is safe, is he not ? " she inquired. 

The fireman, who, by a miracle, had not even sprained a 
joint, was hurrying in the same direction, his heart swelling 
with pity at the idea of his driver being beneath that heap 
of wreckage. They had journeyed, they had suffered so 
much together in the continual fatigue of the high winds! 
And their engine, their poor engine, the good friend so 
cherished by both, which lay there on its back, losing its 
last breath of steam ! 

" I jumped off," he stammered, " and know nothing, 
nothing at all. Come on, come on, quick ! " 

Beside the line they ran up against Flore, who had been 
watching them advancing towards her. Stupefied at the act 
she had committed, at the massacre she had accomplished, 
she had not yet moved. It was all over, and it was well. 
Her only feeling was one of relief at having performed a 
necessity, without the least thought of pity for the pain of 
the other victims, whom she did not even notice. But when 
she recognised Severine, her eyes opened immeasurably 



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The Monomaniac 321 

wide, and a cloud of frightful suffering darkened her pale 
countenance. Eh? what? this woman lived, when he was 
certainly dead ! This piercing grief at her assassinated love, 
at this stab which she had given herself right in the heart, 
abruptly revealed to her all the abomination of her crime. 
She had done this, she had killed him, she had killed all 
these people ! A loud cry lacerated her throat, she twisted 
her arms, she ran madly forward, exclaiming: 

" Jacques, oh ! Jacques ! He is there. He was thrown 
backward, I saw him. Jacques, Jacques ! " she called. 

The death rattle of La Lison had become subdued. It 
had taken the form of a hoarse moan which grew weaker 
and weaker, and the increasing clamour of the wounded 
could now be heard in tones more and more heartrending. 
The smoke remained thick. The enormous heap of wreckage, 
whence issued the voices of the tortured and terrified beings, 
seemed enveloped in a black cloud of dust that remained 
motionless in the sun. What could be done? Where 
commence ? How could these wretched victims be reached ? 

"Jacques!" Flore continued calling. "I tell you he 
looked at me," she added, " and that he was thrown off there, 
under the tender. Come along quickly ! Help me!" 

Cabuche and Misard had just picked up Henri, the head- 
guard, who at the last second had also leapt from the train. 
He had dislocated his ankle, and they seated him on the 
ground against the hedge, where, half-stunned and mute, he 
watched the rescue of the passengers without appearing to 
suffer. 

"Cabuche, come and help me ! " cried Flore ; " I tell you, 
Jacques is under there!" 

The quarryman did not hear her. He ran to the assistance 
of the other wounded, and carried away a young woman 
whose legs were dangling down broken. 

It was S^verine who rushed forward to answer the appeal 
of Flore. 



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322 The .Monomaniac 

"Jacques, Jacques?" said she inquiringly. "Where is 
he ? I will help you." 

" That's it, help me, you ! " 

Their hands met. Together they tugged at a broken wheel. 
But the delicate fingers of SeVerine could do nothing, while 
the other with her sturdy fists broke through the obstacles. 

" Be careful ! " said Pecqueux, who also began to assist in 
the work. 

And he sharply stopped SeVerine just as she was going to 
tread on an arm cut off at the shoulder, which was still clothed 
in a blue cloth sleeve. She started back in horror. And 
yet she did not recognise the sleeve. It was an unknown 
arm that had rolled there from a body they would doubtless 
find elsewhere. This gave her such a fit of trembling that 
she seemed as if paralysed, standing weeping, watching the 
others working, incapable even of removing the splinters of 
glass which cut her hands. 

Then the rescue of the dying, the search for the dead 
proved full of anguish and danger, for the live coal had 
set the pieces of wood alight, and to put a stop to this 
commencement of a fire it became necessary to throw shovels 
of earth over them. While someone ran to Barentin to ask 
for assistance, and a telegram left for Rouen, the removal of 
the wreckage proceeded as briskly as possible, everyone 
putting a hand to the work with great courage. Many of 
the runaways had returned, ashamed of their panic. But 
the relief party had to advance with infinite precautions, the 
transfer of each bit of wreckage requiring the utmost care, 
for fears were entertained lest the heap might perchance 
collapse and finish off the poor wretches in its midst. Some 
of the wounded emerged from the pile, still buried up to their 
chests, crushed as if in a vice, and howling. The rescuers 
laboured a quarter of an hour to deliver one victim as white 
as a sheet, who, far from complaining, said he felt no pain, 
and had nothing the matter with him ; but when he had been 



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The Monomaniac 3 2 3 

extricated, he was found to be without his legs, and expired 
immediately, having neither seen nor felt the horrible mutila- 
tion in his fit of fright. 

An entire family were dragged from a second-class compart- 
ment that had caught fire : the father and mother wounded 
in the knees, the grandmother with a broken arm ; but 
neither did they feel their injuries. They were sobbing and 
calling their little girl who had disappeared in the smash — a 
fair-headed mite, barely three years old, who was discovered 
safe and sound under a strip of roofing with a merry, smiling 
face. Another little girl drenched in blood and with her 
poor, tiny hands crushed, had been carried aside pending the 
discovery of her parents. She remained alone and unknown, 
breathing with such difficulty that she could not utter a word ; 
but her face was convulsed into an expression of ineffable 
terror as soon as anyone approached her. 

The shock having twisted the iron-fittings of the carriage 
doors, it was found impossible to open them, and it became 
necessary to enter the compartments through the broken glass. 
Four corpses had already been taken out and placed side 
by side along the line. About ten wounded extended on the 
ground, were waiting near the dead bodies, there being no 
doctor to dress their wounds, and no assistance of any kind. 
The clearance of the wreckage had barely commenced, and 
a new victim was found under each bit of lumber, while the 
heap, streaming and palpitating with this human butchery, 
never seemed to decrease. 

" But I tell you that Jacques is under there ! " cried Flore, 
relieving herself by obstinately repeating this expression, which 
she uttered without reason, as the lamentation of her despair. 
" He is calling. There, there I Listen ! " she added. 

The tender lay buried beneath the carriages, which after 
running one atop of the other, had then tumbled over ; and, 
in fact, since the locomotive had been making less noise, a 
heavy masculine voice could be distinguished roaring in the 



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324 The Monomaniac 

midst of the pile. As the work advanced the clamour of 
these agonising tones became more subdued, but they revealed 
such atrocious pain that the rescue party, unable to bear them 
any longer, gave way and called out themselves. Then, at 
last, when the excavators reached the victim whose legs they 
had liberated, and whom they were dragging towards them, the 
roar of suffering ceased. The man was dead ! 

" No," said Flore, " it is not Jacques. He is lower down. 
He is underneath." 

And with her arms of a warrior woman, she raised the 
wheels and cast them to a distance, she twirled the zinc of 
the roofs, broke the doors, tore away the bits of chain. And 
as soon as she came to a corpse or a person who was wounded, 
she called for someone to remove the body, determined not 
to slacken for a second in her maddening search. 

Cabuche, Pecqueux, and Misard worked behind her, while 
SeVerine, enfeebled by standing so long on her feet, had 
just seated herself on the bench of a shattered carriage. But 
Misard, gentle and indifferent, again overcome by his sluggish- 
ness, anxious to avoid too much fatigue, was always ready 
to carry away the bodies. And both he and Flore looked 
at the corpses, as if they hoped to recognise them from among 
the multitude of thousands and thousands of faces who, in 
ten years, had filed past before their eyes at full steam, leaving 
only the confused recollection of a crowd conveyed there 
and borne away in a flash. 

No ; it was still that unknown wave of the advancing 
world, as anonymous in brutal, accidental death, as in that 
hasty life which brought it tearing past them onward to the 
future; and they could not name, they could give no in- 
formation about the heads, furrowed with horror, of these poor 
creatures struck down on their road, trampled under foot, 
similar to those soldiers whose bodies fill the trenches in 
opposing the charge of an enemy ascending to the assault. 
Nevertheless, Flore fancied she had found one person to 



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The Monomaniac 3 2 5 

whom she had spoken on the day the train was blocked 
in the snow: that American whose profile she had at last 
come to know familiarly, without being aware of his name, 
or anything about him or his. Misard carried him along 
with the other dead bodies, come no one knew whence, 
bound for no one knew where, and stopped there. 

Then came a heartrending scene: in a first-class com- 
partment turned topsy-turvy they had just discovered a young 
couple, doubtless newly married, thrown one upon the other 
in such an unfortunate position that the woman, who was 
uppermost, crushed the man, and could not make a movement 
to relieve him. He was choking, he already had the death 
rattle in his throat; while she, in terror, with her mouth 
free, her heart rent asunder at the thought that she was killing 
him, distractedly implored the relief party to make haste. 
And when they had delivered both, it was she who all at 
once breathed her last, a blow from one of the buffers having 
ripped open her side. And the man, coming to himself 
again, clamoured with grief, kneeling beside the dead body 
whose eyes remained full of tears. 

A dozen corpses and about thirty wounded passengers had 
now been removed. The workers were setting the tender 
free. Flore paused, ever and anon, thrusting her head among 
the splintered wood, the twisted iron, searching ardently 
with her eyes to see if she could perceive the driver. Suddenly 
she uttered a loud cry. 

" I can see him ! " she exclaimed. " He is under here. 
Look ! There is his arm, with his blue woollen jacket. He 
doesn't move ; he doesn't breathe ! " 

And, rising from her recumbent position, she swore like 
a man. 

"Be quick!" she shouted with an oath. "Get him out 
from there ! " 

She made a fruitless effort with both hands to tear away 
a plank belonging to one of the carriages, which other pieces 



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3 2 6 The Monomaniac 

of wreckage prevented coming towards her. So, running 
off, she returned with the hatchet that served to chop the 
wood at home; and brandishing it as a woodcutter wields 
his axe in the middle of an oak-tree forest, she fell upon 
the plank with a volley of furious blows. The men, standing 
aside, allowed her to do as she would, while shouting to her 
to be careful. But Jacques was the only wounded person 
there, and he lay sheltered under an entanglement of axle- 
trees and wheels. Moreover, she paid no attention to what 
was said. Her spirit being fairly roused, certain of herself, 
she proceeded with irresistible determination. Each stroke 
battered down the wood, cut through an obstacle. With 
her fair hair streaming free, her bodice torn open displaying 
her bare arms, she resembled some terrible reaper cleaving 
a way through the destruction she had wrought. The final 
blow falling upon an axletree, broke the iron of the hatchet 
in two. Then, assisted by the others, she put aside the 
wheels which had protected the young man from being 
crushed to death, and she was the first to seize him and 
bear him away in her arms. 

" Jacques, Jacques ! " she cried. " He is alive ; he is 
breathing. Ah ! Great God ! he lives. I knew I saw him 
fall, and that he was there ! " 

SeVerine, who was distracted, followed her. Between them 
they laid him down at the foot of the hedge beside Henri, 
who continued gazing, stupefied, as if not understanding 
where he was, nor what went on around him. Pecqueux, who 
had approached, remained standing before his driver quite 
unhinged at seeing him in this deplorable state ; while the 
two women, now kneeling down, one to the right the other 
to the left, supported the head of the poor fellow, watching 
in anguish for the slightest shiver on his face. 

At length Jacques opened his lids. His troubled look 
fell upon Flore and Se'verine, one after the other, but he 
did not appear to recognise them, They failed to arou.se 



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The Monomaniac 327 

his interest. But his eyes having encountered the expiring 
locomotive, a few feet away, first of all assumed a wild ex- 
pression, then, settling on the object, vacillated with increasing 
emotion. 

He recognised La Lison well, and the sight brought every- 
thing back to him : the two blocks of stone across the rails, 
the abominable shock, the crushing sensation he had ex- 
perienced, at the same moment, within both the engine and 
himself, and from which he had emerged alive, while the 
locomotive had assuredly come to an end. It was not the 
fault of the engine if it had been intractable ; for it had always 
felt the effects of the accident in the snow ; without counting, 
that age makes limbs heavy and joints stiff, which is as 
applicable to machinery as to living creatures. And so, 
overwhelmed with grief at seeing La Lison direfully wounded, 
in the last throes of death, he readily forgave. 

Poor La Lison had but a few minutes more. It was be- 
coming cold. The live coal in the fire-box was turning into 
cinders, the. steam that had escaped in such violence from 
its open flanks, was exhausting itself with the low moan of 
a weeping child. The locomotive always so bright, now lay 
on its back in a black bed of coal, soiled with earth and foam. 
It had met with the tragic end of a costly animal struck down 
in the public street. At one moment, it had been possible 
to perceive its mechanism at work through its shattered plates : 
the pistons beating like twin-hearts, the steam circulating in 
the slide valves as the blood of its veins ; but the connecting- 
rods merely moved in a jerky fashion, after the manner of 
convulsive human arms, and constituted the final efforts 
of life. 

Its spirit was ebbing away along with the power that gave 
it life, that huge breath whereof it could not absolutely free 
itself. The eviscerated giantess sank lower still, passing little 
by little into very gentle slumber, and ended by emitting 
not a sound. La Lison was dead. And the heap of iron, 



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328 The Monomaniac 

steel, and copper, lying there, this pounded colossal mass 
with the barrel ripped asunder, the scattered limbs, the 
interior mechanism smashed, exposed to broad daylight, dis- 
played the frightfully mournful aspect of some enormous 
human corpse, of a whole world that had lived, and from 
which life had just been torn in anguish. 

Then Jacques, understanding that La Lison was no more, 
closed his eyes, desiring to die also; moreover, he was so 
weak that he fancied himself borne away in the final little 
puff of the engine ; and tears, trickling from his closed lids, 
drenched his cheeks. This was too much for Pecqueux who 
had remained there motionless with a lump in his throat. 
Their dear friend had gone, and here was his driver wishing 
to follow. So the happy family of three was at an end. 
All over those journeys of hundreds of leagues they made 
together without exchanging a word, and yet all three under- 
standing one another so well, that they had no need to make 
even a sign to comprehend. Ah ! poor La Lison, as gentle 
as strong, so beautiful when sparkling in the sun! And 
Pecqueux, who, nevertheless, had not been drinking, burst 
into violent sobs, unable to master the hiccoughs that agitated 
his huge frame. 

Severine and Flore were also in despair at this fresh fainting 
fit of Jacques. The latter of the two women running home, 
returned with camphorated spirit, and began to friction him 
for the sake of doing something. But amidst their anguish 
they were exasperated by the interminable death agony of 
the horse, who had his two fore-hoofs cut off, the only survivor 
of the team of five. He lay close to them, uttering a constant 
neigh, a cry that sounded almost human. It was so shrill 
and so expressive of frightful pain, that two of the wounded 
gained by the contagion, also began howling like animals. 

Never had a death-cry rent the air in such a deep, ever 
memorable complaint. It made the blood run icy cold. The 
torture became atrocious. Voices, trembling with pity and 



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The Monomaniac 3 2 9 

anger, inveighed against it, beseeching the rescue party to 
put an end to the misery of this wretched horse, who was 
in such terrible suffering, and whose endless death rattle, now 
that the engine had expired, continued like the final lamenta- 
tion of the catastrophe. Then Pecqueux, still sobbing, picked 
up the hatchet with the shattered steel head, and at a single 
blow, right in front of the skull, pole-axed him. Silence now 
fell on the scene of massacre. 

Assistance came at last, after waiting a couple of hours. 
In the shock of the collision the carriages had all been 
thrown to the left, so that the down-line could be cleared 
in a few hours. A train from Rouen, consisting of three 
carriages and a pilot-engine, had just brought the chief- 
secretary to the Prefect and the Imperial Procurator, along 
with some engineers and doctors of the company — quite a 
swarm of active, busy personages; while M. Bessiere, the 
station-master at Barentin, was already attacking the wreckage 
with a gang of workmen. 

Extraordinary bustle and excitement prevailed in this out- 
of-the-way place, usually so silent and deserted. The travellers, 
who had issued from the accident safe and sound, had not 
yet lost the frenzy of their panic, which asserted itself in 
a febrile necessity to keep on the move. Some, terrified at 
the idea of again seating themselves in a railway carriage, 
endeavoured to hire vehicles ; others, seeing it was impossible 
to find even a wheel-barrow, already became anxious about 
eating and sleeping. Everybody wished to send off telegrams, 
and several people set out for Barentin on foot taking 
messages with them. 

While the representatives of the government, assisted by 
the servants of the railway company, commenced an inquiry, 
the doctors hastily proceeded to dress the wounds of the 
injured. Many had lost consciousness and lay in pools of 
blood. Others, tortured by tweezers and needles, murmured 
in feeble voices. Altogether there were fifteen passengers 



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33° The Monomaniac 

killed and thirty-two seriously hurt. The corpses remained 
in a row on the ground at the foot of the hedge, with 
their faces to the sky pending identification. 

No one, save a little substitute, a fair and rosy young 
man full of zeal, troubled about them. And he searched 
their pockets to see if he could find any papers, visiting-cards, 
or letters, which would enable him to ticket each of them 
with a name and address. Meanwhile, a gaping crowd 
had gathered about him; for, although there was no house 
within a league around, a number of idlers had arrived, no 
one could say whence — some thirty men, women, and children, 
who simply stood in the way without lending any assistance. 
And the black dust, the veil of smoke and vapour that had 
enveloped everything, having dispersed, the radiant April 
morning burst triumphant upon the scene of massacre, bathing 
the dead and dying, the ripped-up La Lison, and the pile 
of wreckage, in gentle, gay streams of bright sun ; while the 
gang of workmen engaged in clearing the line reminded 
one of ants repairing the damage done to their hill by the 
feet of a thoughtless passer-by. 

Jacques continued unconscious, and S^verine, stopping a 
doctor as he came along, besought his assistance. The 
latter examined the young man without discovering any 
visible wound, but fearing internal lesions on account of the 
thin streaks of blood that appeared between his lips, he de- 
clined to express a formal opinion, but advised that Jacques 
should be removed as speedily, and with as little jolting as 
possible, and put to bed. 

Jacques, at the touch of hands passing over him, had 
again opened his eyes with a suppressed ejaculation of pain. 
This time he recognised Severine, and stammered in a 
wandering manner: 

" Take me away — take me away ! " 

Flore bent forward, and Jacques moving his head recognised 
her also. His eyes at once took the terrified expression of 



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The Monomaniac 331 

a child, and he turned back towards Severine, shrinking from 
the other with a look of hatred and horror. 

" Take me away, immediately, immediately ! " said he. 

Then SeVerine, troubling no more about Flore than if she 
had not been present, inquired in a most affectionate tone : 

"Will you let me take you to La Croix-de-Maufras ? It 
is just opposite; and if you consent we shall be at home 
there." 

And still agitated, with his eyes fixed on the other, he 
acquiesced. 

"Anywhere you please, immediately," said he. 

Flore, who remained motionless, turned pale as death at 
his look of terrified execration. And so, in this carnage of 
innocent people, she had not succeeded in killing them, 
neither the one nor the other: the woman had come out 
of it without a scratch; and now he would perhaps escape. 
She had only succeeded in throwing them together all alone 
in this solitary house. She saw them comfortable there, 
the sweetheart recovered, convalescent ; the girl full of atten- 
tion, recompensed for her vigils by continual caresses, both 
prolonging the honeymoon of the catastrophe in absolute 
liberty and far from the world. She turned icy cold, and cast 
her eyes on the dead she had slaughtered to no purpose. 

At this moment, Flore, in the glance she had given to the 
butchery, perceived Misard and Cabuche, who were being 
questioned by some gentlemen — the judicial authorities 
assuredly. In fact, the Imperial Procurator and the chief 
secretary to the Prefect were endeavouring to ascertain how 
this stone dray had got across the line. Misard maintained 
that he had not left his post, while at the same time, he 
was unable to give any precise information as to what had 
happened. He really knew nothing, so he pretended he 
had been busy with his apparatus, and had his back turned. 

Cabuche, who had not yet recovered his composure, related 
a long ? confused story about how he had committed the 



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33 2 The Monomaniac 

imprudence of leaving his team, in order to take a look at 
the corpse of the dead woman, how the horses had moved 
on alone, and how the young girl had been unable to stop 
them. Embroiling himself, he began again without succeeding 
in making himself understood. 

A mad desire for liberty, again caused the frozen blood 
of Flore to flow warm. She wished for freedom of action, 
freedom to reflect and come to a decision of her own accord, 
having never required the assistance of anyone to get into 
the right path. What was the good of waiting to be annoyed 
with questions, perhaps to be arrested ? For, apart from the 
crime, there had been neglect of duty, and she would be held 
responsible. Nevertheless, she remained where she was, 
feeling unable to quit the spot so long as Jacques stayed there. 

S£verine had so begged and prayed of Pecqueux to procure 
a stretcher, that he at last secured one, and returned from 
his errand with a comrade, to carry off the injured driver. 
The doctor had persuaded the young woman to allow Henri, 
the headguard, to be accommodated at her house also. He 
merely seemed to be suffering from swimming in the head, 
as if momentarily struck senseless by the shock. He would 
be removed after the other one. 

As Severine bent forward to unbutton the cpllar of Jacques 
which was troubling him, she kissed him openly on the 
eyes, wishing to give him courage to support being moved. 

" Never mind," she murmured ; " we shall be happy." 

He returned her kiss smiling. And to Flore this was 
the supreme rent that tore him from her for ever. It 
seemed to her that her blood, also, was now flowing from 
an incurable wound. She fled when they carried him away ; 
but, in passing before the low habitation, she perceived the 
death-chamber through the window, with the pale spot formed 
by the candle burning in broad daylight, beside the body 
of her mother. During the accident the corpse of the dead 
woman had remained alone, with the head half turned aside, 



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The Monomaniac 333 

the eyes wide open, the mouth twisted, as if she were watching 
all these people whom she did not know, being crushed to 
death. 

Flore dashed away, and immediately turning the comer 
formed by the Doinville road, struck out to the left among 
the bushes. She was familiar with every innermost corner 
of the district, and she could now defy the gendarmes to 
catch her should they happen to be in pursuit. So she 
abruptly ceased running, continuing at a slow walk towards 
a hiding-place — an excavation above the tunnel, where she 
loved to conceal herself on days when she felt sad. Raising 
her eyes, she saw by the sun that it was noon. When she 
was in her den, she stretched herself on the hard rock, and 
remained motionless with her hands clasped behind her 
neck reflecting. It was not until then that she felt a fright- 
ful void within her. A sensation of being dead gradually 
numbed her limbs. This was not remorse at having use- 
lessly slaughtered all these people, for it required an effort 
on her part to experience regret and horror at what she 
had done. 

No, but she was now certain that Jacques had seen her 
holding back the horses; and she had just understood, as 
she noticed him shrink away, that he felt the same terrified 
repulsion for her as one has for monsters. He would never 
forget. However, when you miss doing away with other 
people, you must not commit the same blunder with yourself. 
By-and-by, she would put an end to her existence. She had 
no other hope. She felt the absolute necessity of resorting 
to this extremity, since she had been there, recovering calm 
and reasoning. Her fatigue and complete prostration alone 
prevented her rising to seek a weapon, and die there and then. 
And yet, from the midst of the invincible somnolence 
that settled on her, again came the love of life, a craving for 
felicity, a final dream of being happy also, considering she 
had left the other two to the bliss of living freely together. 



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334 The . Monomaniac 

Why not await night, to run off and join Ozii, who adored 
her and would very well know how to defend her? Then 
her thoughts became gentle and confused, and she fell into 
a sound sleep, free from dreams. 

When Flore awoke, night had completely set in. Not 
knowing where she was, she felt about her, and at once 
remembered everything, on touching the naked rock whereon 
she lay. Then the implacable necessity presented itself like 
a thunderbolt : she must die. It seemed as if that cowardly 
sensation of gentleness, that faltering when life seemed still 
possible, had vanished with the fatigue. No, no; death 
alone was good. She could not live in the midst of all this 
blood, with her tattered heart, and execrated by the only 
man she cared for, who belonged to another. Now that 
she had the strength, she must die. 

Flore rose, and left the hole in the rocks. She did not 
hesitate, for instinct had just told her where she should go. 
Looking towards the stars, she could see it was close on nine 
o'clock. As she reached the railway, a train flew by at full 
speed, on the down- line, which seemed to give her pleasure : 
all would be well. Evidently they had cleared this line, 
whereas the other, no doubt, was still blocked, for the trains 
did not seem to be running. Now she followed the hedge 
amidst the deadly silence of the wild surroundings. There 
was no hurry, there would be no train before the Paris express, 
and that would not be there until 9.25. She continued her 
walk in the dense darkness very calmly, and at short strides, 
as if she had been making one of her usual excursions by 
the deserted pathways of the neighbourhood. 

Nevertheless, before coming to the tunnel, she made her 
way through the hedge, and advanced along the metals them- 
selves, at her dawdling gait, walking to meet the express. 
She had to keep her wits about her, so as not to be seen 
by the watchman, as was her custom each time she ran 
over on a visit to Ozil. And, in the tunnel, she continued 



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The Monomaniac 335 

walking, still, still advancing. But it was not as on the last 
occasion. She was no longer afraid, should she turn round, 
of losing the exact notion of the direction she wished to take ? 
The tunnel folly was not beating in her skull, obliterating 
all idea of time and space, amidst the thunder of the sounds 
crashing beneath the vault. What mattered it to her? 
She did not reason, she did not even think, she had but one 
fixed resolution : to walk, walk before her until she met the 
train, and then to still walk on, straight to the lantern, as 
soon as she should see it flaming in the night. 

Nevertheless, Flore felt astonished, for she fancied she had 
been going along thus for hours. What a distance it was, 
this death that she desired ! The idea that she would not 
encounter it, that she would walk leagues and leagues without 
striking against it, caused her momentary despair. Her feet 
were becoming weary. Would she then be obliged to sit 
down, and wait for death ? To lie across the rails ? But 
this struck her as unworthy. With the instinct of a virgin 
and warrior woman, she wished to walk on to the end, to 
die erect. And this thought aroused her energy. She gave 
another spurt forward, and, in the far distance, perceived the 
light of the express, looking like a little star, twinkling and 
alone, in the midst of an inky sky. 

The train was not yet beneath the vault No sound 
announced its coming. Nothing was visible but this very 
bright, gay light, increasing little by little in volume. Drawn 
up to her full, tall height, in all the suppleness of her build, 
evenly balanced on her strong lower limbs, she now advanced 
at a long stride, but without running, as if going to meet 
a friend to whom she wished to spare a part of the distance 
separating them. But the train had just entered the tunnel, 
the frightful roar approached, shaking the ground with a 
tempestuous blast; while the star had become an enormous 
eye, ever expanding, bursting out as if from its orbit of 
gloom. 



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33 6 The Monomaniac 

Then, under the empire of an inexplicable sentiment, 
perhaps to die quite alone, she emptied her pockets without 
pausing in her heroic, obstinate march, and placed quite 
a little pile of articles beside the line : a pocket-handkerchief, 
some keys, some string, a couple of knives ; she even removed 
the fichu tied round her neck, leaving her bodice unhooked 
and torn half open. 

The eye changed into a brazier, into the mouth of an oven 
vomiting fire. The breath of the monster already reached her, 
damp and warm, in the roll of thunder that became more and 
more deafening. And she continued to walk on, going straight 
towards the furnace so as not to miss the engine, fascinated 
like some night insect attracted by a flame. And in the 
frightful shock, in the embrace, she still drew herself up, 
as if stirred by the final revolt of a wrestler woman, she sought 
to clasp the giant, and lay him low. Her head went full 
into the lantern which was extinguished. 

It was more than an hour afterwards that a party came 
to pick up the corpse of Flore. The driver had distinctly 
seen the tall, pale-faced figure of this girl advancing towards 
the engine, with all the strange aspect of a terrifying apparition, 
in the deluge of vivid light that streamed upon her; and, 
when the lantern abruptly went out, and the train rolled along 
with its peal of thunder in dense obscurity, he shuddered 
as he felt death pass by. On issuing from the tunnel he 
did his best to inform the watchman of the accident, by 
shouting to him. But only at Barentin could he relate that 
somebody had just been cut in two down the line. It was 
certainly a woman for female hair, mingled with bits of 
skull, still remained sticking to the broken glass of the lamp. 

And when the men sent to look for the body discovered it, 
they started to find it so white — as white as marble. It was 
lying on the up-line, thrown there by the violence of the 
shock: the head all pulp, the limbs without a scratch, and 
half bare, displaying admirable beauty in their purity and 



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The Monomaniac 337 

strength. The men wrapped up the corpse in silence. They 
had recognised it. She had certainly done away with herself 
in a fit of craziness, to escape the terrible responsibility 
weighing on her. 

At midnight the corpse of Flore rested in the little, low 
habitation beside that of her mother. A mattress had been 
spread on the ground, and a candle lighted between the two 
bodies. The great fixed eyes of Aunt Phasie, whose head 
remained inclined on her shoulder, and whose twisted mouth 
still bore its hideous grin, seemed now to be gazing at 
her daughter; while all around in the solitude, amid the 
profound silence could be heard the grim labour — the panting 
efforts of Misard, who had resumed his search. 

And at the prescribed intervals, the trains flew by, crossing 
one another on the two lines, the traffic having just been 
completely restored. They passed inexorably and indiffer- 
ently with their all-powerful mechanism, ignorant of these 
dramas and these crimes. What mattered the unknown of the 
multitude fallen on the road, crushed beneath the wheels? 
The dead had been removed, the blood washed away, and 
the trains started off again for yonder, towards the future. 



22 



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CHAPTER XI 

THE scene shifted to the bedroom at La Croix-de-Maufras, 
the room hung in red damask, with the two high 
windows looking on the railway line a few yards away. From 
the bedstead — an old four-poster facing the windows — 
the trains could be seen passing. And not an object had 
been removed, not a piece of furniture disturbed for years. 

Severine had the wounded Jacques, who was unconscious, 
carried up to this apartment; while Henri Dauvergne was 
left in a smaller bedroom on the ground floor. For herself, 
she kept a room close to the one occupied by Jacques, 
and only separated from it by the landing. A couple of 
hours sufficed to make everything sufficiently comfortable, 
for the house had remained fully set up, and even linen 
was stowed away in the cupboards. Severine, with an apron 
over her gown, found herself transformed into a lady nurse. 
She had simply telegraphed to Roubaud not to expect her, 
as she would no doubt remain at the house a short time, 
attending to the wounded she had put up there. 

On the following day, the doctor announced that he 
thought he could answer for Jacques, indeed he hoped to 
put him on his feet again in a week; his case proved a 
perfect miracle, for he had barely received some slight 
internal injury. But the doctor insisted on the greatest 
care being taken of him, and on absolute rest So when 
the invalid opened his eyes Severine, who watched over him 
as over a child, begged him to be good and to obey her in 
everything. Still very weak, he promised with a nod. 

338 



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The Monomaniac 339 

He was in possession of all his faculties. He recognised 
the room which she had described on the night of her 
confession. He was lying on the bed. There were the 
windows through which, without even raising his head, he 
could see the trains flash past, suddenly shaking the whole 
house. And he felt by the surroundings, that this house 
was just as he had so often seen it, when he went by on 
his engine. He saw it again now in his mind, set down 
aslant beside the line, in its distress and abandonment, 
with its closed shutters. The aspect had become more 
lamentable and dubious, since it had been for sale, with the 
immense board adding to the melancholy appearance of 
the garden overgrown with briars. He recalled the frightful 
sadness he had felt each time he passed the place, the 
uneasiness with which it haunted him as if it stood at this 
spot to be the calamity of his existence. And now, as 
he lay so weak in this room, he seemed to understand it 
all, there could be no other solution to the matter — he was 
assuredly going to die there. 

As soon as Severine perceived he was in a condition to 
understand her, she hastened to set his mind at ease in 
regard to a subject which she fancied might be worrying 
him, whispering in his ear as she drew up the bedclothes : 

" You need not be anxious. I emptied your pockets, and 
took the watch." 

He gazed at her with wide open eyes, making an effort 
to remember. 

"The watch ! Ah ! yes ! the watch," he murmured. 

" They might have searched you," she resumed. " And I 
have hidden it among my own things. Don't be afraid." 

He thanked her with a pressure of the hand. Turning his 
head, he caught sight of the knife lying on the table. This 
had also been found in one of his pockets, but there was no 
need to conceal it, for it was just like many another knife. 

The following day, Jacques already found himself stronger, 



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34° The Monomaniac 

and began to hope he would not die there. He experienced 
real pleasure when he noticed the presence of Cabuche, who 
did all he could to make himself useful, and was at great 
pains to avoid making a noise on the floor with his heavy, 
giant-like tread. The quarryman had not quitted Severine 
since the accident, and it seemed as if he also was under the 
influence of an ardent desire to show his devotedness. He 
abandoned his own occupation, and came every morning to 
assist in the housework, serving her with canine-like fidelity, 
and with eyes ever fixed on her own. As he remarked: 
she was a splendid woman, in spite of her slim appearance. 
One might well do something for her, considering she did 
so much for others. And the two sweethearts became so 
accustomed to him that they did not trouble if he happened 
to surprise them talking affectionately to one another, or 
even kissing, when he chanced to pass discreetly through the 
apartment, making as little as he could of his burly frame. 

What astonished Jacques was the frequent absence of 
Severine from the room. On the first day, in obedience to 
the orders of the doctor, she had said nothing about Henri 
being below, feeling that the idea of absolute solitude would 
act as a sort of soothing draught on her patient 

" We are alone here, are we not ? " he inquired. 

" Yes, my darling, alone, all alone," she answered. " You 
can sleep in peace." 

But she disappeared at every moment, and the next day 
he overheard footsteps and whispering on the ground floor. 
Then, on the following day, he distinguished a lot of stifled 
merriment, bursts of clear laughter, two fresh, youthful voices 
that never ceased. 

" What is it ? Who is there ? " he asked. " So we are \ 
not alone?" 

"Well, no, my darling," she replied. "Down below, just 
under your room, is another injured man to whom I have 
given hospitality." 



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The Monomaniac 341 

" Ah ! » he exclaimed. " Who is it ? " 

" Henri, you know, the headguard ! " said she. 

" Henri ! Ah ! " he exclaimed again. 

" And this morning," she continued, "his two sisters arrived. 
It is they that you hear; they laugh at everything. As he 
is much better they are going back again to-night, on account 
of their father who cannot do without them ; and Henri is to 
remain two or three days longer to get quite well. Just fancy, 
he leapt from the train without breaking a single bone ; only 
he was like an idiot ; but his reason has returned." 

Jacques made no remark, but he fixed such a penetrating 
look on her, that she added : 

" You understand, eh ? If he was not there, people might 
gossip about us two. So long as I am not alone with you, 
my husband can say nothing and I have a good pretext for 
remaining here. You understand ? " 

" Yes, yes," he replied ; " that is all right." 

And Jacques, until evening, listened to the laughter of the 
little Dauvergnes, which he recollected having heard in Paris, 
ascending in the same manner from the lower floor into the 
room where SeVerine had made her confession to him. With 
darkness came silence, and he could only distinguish the light 
footsteps of S£verine going from him to the other wounded 
man. The door below closed, and the house fell into profound 
silence. Feeling thirsty, he had to knock twice on the floor 
with a chair for her to come up to him. When she arrived, 
she was all smiles and very assiduous, explaining that she 
could not get away before because it was necessary to keep a 
compress of cold water on the head of Henri. 

On the fourth day, Jacques was able to get up, and pass 
a couple of hours in an armchair before the window. By 
bending forward a little he could see the strip of garden 
inclosed by a low wall and invaded by briars with their pale 
bloom, a slice of which had been taken by the railway. And 
he remembered the night when he stood on tip-toe to look 



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34 2 The Monomaniac 

over the wall. He again saw the rather large piece of ground 
at the back of the house shut in by a hedge only, the hedge 
he had gone through to run up against Flore seated at the 
entrance to the dilapidated greenhouse, cutting up stolen 
cord with scissors. Ah ! that abominable night full of the 
terror of his complaint ! That Flore, with the tall, supple 
stature of a fair warrior woman, her flaming eyes fixed straight 
on his, was ever present since the recollection of it all returned 
to him more and more distinctly. 

At first he had not opened his lips respecting the accident, 
and no one about him alluded to it, out of prudence. But 
every detail came back to him, and he pieced it all together 
again. He thought of nothing else, and his mind was so 
continuously occupied with the subject, that now, at the 
window, his sole occupation consisted in looking for traces 
of the collision, in watching for the actors in the catastrophe. 
How was it that he did not see Flore there at her post as 
gatekeeper with her flag in her fist ? He dared not ask the 
question, and this increased the uneasiness he felt in this 
lugubrious dwelling, which seemed to him to be peopled 
with spectres. 

Nevertheless, one morning, when Cabuche was there assist- 
ing SeVerine, he ended by making up his mind. 

" And where is Flore ? " he inquired. " Is she ill ? " 

The quarryman, taken unawares, misunderstood a gesture 
the young woman made, and, thinking she was telling him to 
speak out, he answered : 

" Poor Flore is dead." 

Jacques looked at them shuddering, and it then became 
necessary to tell him all. Together they related to him the 
suicide of the young girl, how she had been cut in two in the 
tunnel. The burial of the mother had been delayed until 
the evening, so that her daughter might be carried away at 
the same time ; and they now slept side by side in the little 
cemetery at Doinville, where they had gone to join the first 



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The Monomaniac 343 

who had made the journey, the younger sister, that gentle 
but unfortunate Louisette. Three miserable creatures among 
those who fall on the road, who are crushed and disappear, as 
if swept away by the terrible blast of those passing trains. 

"Dead ! great God !" repeated Jacques very lowly. " My 
poor Aunt Phasie, and Flore, and Louisette ! " 

At the last name, Cabuche, who was assisting S£verine to 
push the bed, instinctively raised his eyes to her, troubled at 
the recollection of his tender feelings for another in presence 
of the budding passion which he felt had gained him; he, 
a soft-hearted creature of limited intelligence, was without 
defence, like an affectionate dog who is conquered by the first 
caress. But S6verine who knew all about his tragic love 
episode remained grave, looking at him with sympathetic eyes, 
so that he felt very much touched; and his hand having 
unintentionally grazed her hand, as he was passing her the 
pillows, he felt like suffocating, and it was in a stammering 
voice that he replied to the next question Jacques put to him. 

" Did they accuse her, then, of causing the accident ? " 
asked the latter. 

" Oh ! no, no ! Only it was her fault, you understand ? " 
answered Cabuche. 

In disjointed sentences he related all he knew. For his 
own part, he had seen nothing as hQ was in the house when 
the horses moved on to drag the stone dray across the line. 
This, indeed, was what caused him silent remorse. The 
judicial gentlemen had harshly reproached him with leaving 
his team. The frightful misfortune would not have occurred 
had he remained with them. The inquiry, therefore, resulted 
in showing that there had been simple negligence on the part 
of Flore ; and as she had punished herself atrociously, nothing 
further was done. The company did not even remove Misard, 
who, with his air of humility and deference, had got out of 
the scrape by accusing the dead girl : she always did as she 
liked ; he had to leave his box at every minute to close the 



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344 The Monomaniac 

gate. The company, for their part, were compelled to recog- 
nise that on this particular morning he had performed his 
duty perfectly. And, in the interval that would elapse before 
he married again, they had just authorised him to take as 
gatekeeper an old woman of the neighbourhood, named 
Ducloux, formerly a servant at an inn, who lived on money 
she had economised in her younger days. 

When Cabuche left the room, Jacques detained SeVerine by 
a glance. He looked extremely pale. 

" You know very well that it was Flore who pulled on the 
horses, and barred the line with the blocks of stone," said he. 

SeVerine in her turn grew pallid. 

" Darling, what on earth are you saying ? " she answered. 
" You are getting feverish ; you must go to bed again." 

" No, no, I am not wandering. Do you hear ? I saw her, 
as I see you," he continued. " She held the cattle, and with 
her firm fist, prevented the dray advancing." 

On hearing this, SeVerine, losing her legs, sank down on 
a chair opposite him. 

" Good heavens ! good heavens ! " she exclaimed. " It 
strikes terror into one. It is monstrous. I shall never be 
able to get any sleep." 

" Of course," he resumed, " the thing is clear. She 
attempted to kill us both in the general slaughter. She had 
been making me advances for a long time, and she was 
jealous. Coupled with this, she was half off her/ head, and 
had all manner of rum ideas. Only think such a number 
of murders at one stroke — quite a multitude plunged in 
gore ! Ah ! the wretch ! " 

His eyes grew wide open, a nervous twitch drew down his 
lip, and he held his tongue* They remained looking at one 
another for fully a minute without speaking. Then, tearing 
himself from the abominable vision that had risen up between 
them, he continued in a lower tone : 

" Ah ! she is dead ! So that is why her ghost is here ! 



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The Monomaniac 345 

Since I recovered consciousness she seems to be always 
present. Again this morning, I turned round thinking her at 
the head of my bed. Still she is dead, and we are alive. Let 
us hope she will not avenge herself now ! " 

SeVerine shuddered. 

" Hold your tongue, hold your tongue ! " said she. " You 
will drive me crazy." 

She left the room, and he heard her go downstairs to the 
other invalid. 

Jacques, who had remained at the window, was again lost 
in the contemplation of the line, of the small habitation of the 
gatekeeper, with its great well, of the signal-box, that wooden 
hut where Misard seemed to be dozing over his regular, 
monotonous work. Jacques became absorbed by these things 
now for hours, as if poring over some problem he could 
not solve, and the solution of which, nevertheless, concerned 
his safety. 

He never felt tired of watching Misard, that puny creature, 
gentle and pallid, everlastingly disturbed by a nasty little 
cough, who had poisoned his wife, who had got the better 
of that strapping woman, like a rodent insect obstinately 
pursuing its passion. He could certainly not have had any 
other idea in his head for years, day and night, during the 
twelve interminable hours he remained on duty. At each 
electric tinkle, announcing a train, he blew the horn; then, 
when the train had passed and he had blocked the line, he 
pressed an electric knob to warn the next signalman of its 
arrival, afterwards touching a second knob to open the line 
at the preceding signal-box. These simple mechanical move- 
ments had, in the end, entered into his vegetative life, as 
bodily habits. 

Untutored and obtuse he never read anything, but between 
the calls of his apparatus remained with his arms hanging 
down beside him, and his eyes gazing vaguely into space. 
Being almost always seated in his box, he had no other 



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346 The Monomaniac 

diversion than that of dawdling as long as possible over his 
lunch. When this was finished he fell into his doltishness 
again with a skull quite empty, without a thought; and he 
was particularly tormented with terrible drowsiness, sometimes 
sleeping with his eyes open. At night-time, if he wished to 
avoid giving way to this irresistible torpor, he had to get up 
and walk with unsteady legs like a drunken man. And it 
was thus that the struggle with his wife, that secret combat 
as to who should have the concealed 1,000 frcs. after the 
death of the other, must for months and months have been 
the sole reflection in the benumbed brain of this solitary 
being. 

When he blew his horn ; when he manoeuvred his signals, 
watching in automatic fashion over the safety of so many lives, 
he thought of the poison ; and when he waited with idle arms, 
his eyes moving from side to side with sleep, he still thought 
of it. Of nothing did he think but that : he would kill her, 
he would search, it was he who would have the money. 

At present, Jacques was astonished to find Misard had not 
changed. It was possible then to kill without any trouble, 
and life continue as before. After the feverishness, attending 
the first rummages for the money-bag, he had just resumed 
his usual indifference, the cunning, gentle manner of a feeble 
being who shunned a shock. As a matter of fact, he might 
well have put an end to his wife, but she triumphed notwith- 
standing; for he was beaten. He had turned the house 
upside down without discovering anything, not a centime ; and 
his looks alone, those anxious ferreting looks, revealed on his 
sallow countenance how busy was his mind. 

Everlastingly he saw the wide open eyes of the dead 
woman, the hideous smile on her lips which seemed to 
repeat : " Search ! search ! " He sought. He could not give 
his brain one minute of rest now. It worked, worked in- 
cessantly in quest of the spot where the treasure was buried, 
thinking over the possible hiding-places, rejecting those where 



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"The Monomaniac 347 

he had already rummaged, bursting into feverish excitement 
as soon as he imagined a new one ; and then, burning with 
such haste, that he abandoned everything to run off there 
to no purpose. This, in the end, became an intolerable 
torment, an avenging torture, a sort of cerebral insomnia 
which kept him awake, stupid and reflecting in spite of 
himself, in the tic-tac of the pendulum of his fixed idea. 

When he blew his horn, once for the down-trains, twice 
for the-up trains, he sought; when he answered the ringing, 
when he pressed the knobs of his apparatus, closing, opening 
the line, he sought. He sought, sought, bewilderingly, cease- 
lessly. In the daytime, during the long period of waiting, 
heavy with idleness; at night, tormented with sleep as if 
exiled to the other end of the world, in the silence of the 
great black country. And the woman Ducloux, who at 
present looked after the gate, actuated by the desire to 
become his wife, showed him every possible attention, and 
was alarmed to see that he never closed his eyes. 

One night, Jacques, who began to take a few steps in his 
room, had got up and approaching the window, saw a lantern 
moving to and fro at the house of Misard: assuredly the 
man was searching. But the following night, the convalescent 
being again on the look out, was astounded to recognise a 
great dark form, which proved none other than Cabuche, 
who was standing in the road beneath the window of the 
adjoining room where Severine slept. And this sight, without 
him being able to understand why it should be so, instead 
of irritating him, filled him with commiseration and sadness : 
another unfortunate fellow, this great brute, planted there 
like a bewildered faithful animal. 

In truth, Severine, who was so slim and not handsome, 
when examined in detail, must possess a very powerful charm 
with her raven hair and deep blue eyes for even savages, 
giants of limited intelligence, to be so smitten with her as 
to pass the night at her door, like little trembling youths ! 



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34 8 The Monomaniac 

He recalled certain things that he had noticed : the eagerness 
of the quarryman to assist her, and the look of servility 
with which he offered his help- Yes, Cabuche was certainly 
in love with her. And Jacques, having kept his eye on him, 
the next day noticed him furtively pick up a hair-pin that 
had fallen from her hair as she made the bed, and keep 
it in his closed hand so as not to restore it. Jacques thought 
of his own torment, of all he had suffered through his love, 
of all the trouble and fright returning with health. 

Two more days passed. The week was coming to an 
end, and the injured men, as the doctor had foreseen, would 
be able to resume duty. One morning, the driver being 
at the window, saw a brand new engine pass with his 
fireman Pecqueux, who greeted him with his hand as if 
calling him. But he was in no hurry, an awakening of 
passion detained him there, a sort of anxious expectation 
as to what would happen next. 

That same day, in the lower part of the house, he again 
heard fresh youthful laughter, a gaiety of grown up girls, 
filling the sad habitation with all the racket of a ladies' 
school in the playground. He recognised the voices of 
the little Dauvergnes, but he did not say a word on the 
subject to SeVerine who absented herself nearly the entire 
day, unable to remain with him for five minutes at a time. 
In the evening, the house having fallen into deathlike silence, 
and as Severine, looking grave and slightly pale, loitered 
in his room, he looked at her fixedly, and remarked 
inquiringly : 

" So he has gone ? His sisters have taken him away ? " 

She briefly answered : 

" Yes." 

" And we are at last alone, quite alone ? " he continued. 

"Yes, quite alone," said she. "To-morrow we shall have 
to quit one another. I shall return to Havre. We have 
been camping long enough in this desert." 



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The Monomaniac 349 

He continued looking at her in a smiling but constrained 
manner, and at length made up his mind to speak. 

"You are sorry he has gone, eh?" he inquired. 

And as she started and wished to protest, he interrupted 
her: 

"I am not seeking a quarrel with you," he said. "You 
know well enough that I am not jealous. One day you 
told me to kill you if you were unfaithful to me, did you 
not ? I do not look like a man who is going to kill his sweet- 
heart. But really you were always below, it was impossible 
to have you to myself for a minute. It recalled to my mind 
a remark your husband one day made, that you would 
be as likely as not to listen to that young fellow without 
taking any pleasure in the experiment, simply to begin 
something new." 

She ceased defending herself, and slowly repeated, twice 
over: 

" To begin something new, to begin something new." 

Then, in an outburst of irresistible frankness, she continued : 

" Well, listen, what you say is true. We two can tell one 
another everything. We are bound closely enough together. 
This man has pursued me for months. And, when I found 
him below, he spoke to me again. He repeated that he loved 
me to distraction, and in a manner so thoroughly imbued with 
gratitude for the care I had taken of him, with such gentle 
tenderness, that, it is true, I for a moment dreamed of loving 
him also, of beginning something new, something better, 
something very sweet. Yes, something without pleasure 
perhaps, but which would have given me calm " 

She paused, and hesitated, before continuing : 

" For the road in front of us two," she resumed, " is now 
barred. We shall advance no further. Our dream of leaving 
France, the hope of wealth and happiness over there in 
America, all the felicity that depended on you, is impossible, 
because you were unable to do the thing. Oh ! I am not 



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35° The Monomaniac 

making you any reproach ! It is better that it was not done ; 
but I want to make you understand that with you I have 
nothing to hope for; to-morrow will be like yesterday, the 
same annoyances, the same torments." 

He allowed her to speak, and only questioned her when 
he saw her silent. 

" So that is why you gave way to the other ? " he suggested. 

She had taken a few steps in the room, and returning, she 
shrugged her shoulders. 

" No, I did not give way to him," said she. " I tell you 
so, simply; and I am sure you believe me, because hence- 
forth there is no reason why we should lie to one another. 
He kissed my hand, but he did not kiss my lips, and that 
I swear. He expects to meet me at Paris later on because, 
seeing him so miserable, I did not wish to drive him to 
despair." 

She was right. Jacques believed her. He saw she was 
not telling untruths. And his old feeling of anguish began 
again, in the rekindling flame of their passion, that frightful 
trouble of the growing mania, at the thought that he was 
now shut up alone with her, far from the world. Wishing to 
escape, he exclaimed : 

" But then, the other one ! For there is another one ! 
This Cabuche ! " 

Abruptly turning round, she went back to him, and said : 

"Ah! So you noticed him! So you know that, too! 
Yes, it is a fact. There is also this one. I cannot imagine 
what has come to them all. Cabuche has never said a word 
to me. But I can see he is beside himself, when he observes 
us kissing; and when I address you affectionately, he goes 
off to whimper in out-of-the-way corners. And then he robs 
me of all sorts of things, my own private belongings. Gloves 
and even pocket-handkerchiefs disappear, and he carries them 
over there to his cavern as if they were treasures. Only 
you need not imagine that I am likely to fall in love with 



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The Monomaniac 35 * 

this savage. He is too coarse, he would frighten me to 
death. Moreover, his love is passive. No, no, when those 
great brutes are timid, they die of love, without seeking to 
gratify their passion. You might leave me a month in his 
keeping, and he would not touch me with the tips of his 
fingers, no more than he touched Louisette, I can answer 
for that now." 

At this remembrance, they looked at one another, and 
silence ensued. Past events came to their minds : their 
meeting before the examining-magistrate at Rouen ; then their 
first trip to Paris, so full of charm; and their love-making 
at Havre, and all that followed, good and terrible. She drew 
nearer to him, coming so close that he felt the warmth of 
her breath. 

" No, no," she resumed ; " still less with that one than with 
the other. With nobody in fact do you understand. And 
do you want to know why ? Ah! I feel it at this hour ! I 
am sure I make no mistake : it is because you have taken 
entire possession of me ; there is no other word. Yes, taken, 
as one takes an object with both hands and walks off with it. 
Before I knew you I belonged to no one. I am now yours 
and shall remain yours, even against your own wish, even if 
I do not desire to do so myself. I cannot explain this to 
you ; it was to that end that we met. Ah ! it is you alone 
that I love ! I can love no one but you ! " 

She put forward her arms to have him to herself, to rest 
her head on his shoulder, her mouth on his lips. But he 
grasped her hands, he held her back aghast, terrified at the 
sensation of the old shiver ascending his limbs, with the 
blood beating on his brain. Then came the buzzing in 
the ears, the strokes of a hammer, the clamour of a multitude, 
as in his former severe attacks. For some time past he had 
been almost unable to kiss her in broad daylight or even by 
the flame of a candle, in terror lest he should go mad if he 
saw her. And a lamp stood there lighting them both up 



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35 2 The Monomaniac 

brilliantly. If he trembled as he did, if he felt himself going 
crazy, it must be because he perceived the white rotundity of 
her bosom through her open dressing-gown. 

" Our existence may well be barred," she continued. " Let 
it be ! Although I can hope for nothing more from you ; 
although I know that to-morrow will bring us the same worries 
and the same torments, I do not care ; I have nothing to do 
but to let my life drag along and suffer with you. We shall 
return to Havre, and things may go on as they will, so long 
as I have an hour in your company from time to time." 

Jacques, in the fury of madness, excited by her caresses, and 
having no weapon, had already stretched out both his hands 
to strangle her, when she, turning round, extinguished the 
lamp of her own accord. Then, seating herself, she said : 

" Oh ! my darling, if you could only have done it, how 
happy we should have been over there ! No, no, I am not 
asking you to do what you cannot do ; only I'm so sorry our 
dream has not been realised. I was afraid just now; I do 
not know how it is, but it seems as if something menaces me. 
It is no doubt childishness, but at every moment I turn round 
as though something was there ready to strike me ; and I 
have only you, my darling, to defend me. All my joy depends 
on you. It is for you alone that I live." 

Without answering he strained her to him, putting into this 
pressure what he did not say : his emotion, his sincere desire 
to be good to her, the violent love she had never ceased to 
inspire in him. And yet he had again wanted to kill her 
that very night; for if she had not turned round and ex- 
tinguished the lamp he would have strangled her. That was 
certain ; never would he be cured. The attacks came back 
by the hazard of circumstances without him even being able 
to discover or discuss the causes. Thus, why did he wish to 
kill her on that night, when he found her faithful, and imbued 
with a more expansive and confiding passion ? Was it because 
the more she loved him, the more he wished to make her 



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The Monomaniac 353 

his, even to destroying her in the terrifying gloom of male 
egotism? Did he want to have possession of her dead as 
the earth? 

" Tell me, my darling," she murmured, " why am I afraid ? 
Do you know of anything threatening me ? " 

" No, no," answered Jacques ; " rest assured that there is 
nothing threatening you." 

" But at moments," said she, " all my body is in a tremble. 
Behind me lurks a constant danger which I do not see, but 
which I feel very distinctly. How is it that I am afraid ? " 

"No, no," he repeated, "there is no cause for alarm. I 
love you, and will allow no one to do you any harm. See how 
nice it is to be as we are, one in body and soul ! " 

A delicious silence followed, which was broken by Severine. 

" Ah ! my darling," she resumed, in her low, caressing 
whisper, "if we could only always be as we are now. You 
know we would sell this house, and set out with the money to 
join your friend in America, who is still expecting you. I 
never pass a day without making plans for our life over there. 
But you cannot do it I know. If I speak to you on the 
subject, it is not to annoy you, it is because it comes from 
my heart in spite of myself." 

Jacques abruptly took the same decision he had so often 
taken before : to kill Roubaud in order that he might not 
kill her. On this occasion, as previously, he fancied he 
possessed the absolutely firm will to do so. 

" I could not before," he murmured in response, " but I 
might be able to now. Did I not make you a promise that 
I would?" 

She feebly remonstrated. 

" No ; do not promise, I implore you," said she. " It makes 
us sick afterwards, when you have lost courage. And then 
it is horrible. It must not be done. No, no ! It must not 
be done." 

" Yes," answered Jacques, " it must, on the contrary as you 

2 3 



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354 The Monomaniac 

know. It is because it is necessary that I shall find strength 
to do it, I wanted to speak to you on the subject, and 
we will talk about it now, as we are here alone, and so 
quiet that one could hear a pin drop." 

She had already become resigned, and she was sighing, her 
heart swelling, beating with violent throbs. 

"Oh dear! oh dear!" she murmured. "So long as the 
thing was not to be, I wanted it done. But now that it 
becomes serious I shall not be able to exist." 

This weighty resolution caused another silence. Around 
them they felt the desert, the desolation of the savage district. 
Suddenly she resumed her low murmur : 

" We must have him here. Yes, I could send for him on 
some pretext ; which, I do not know. We can settle that later 
on. Then you will be waiting for him in concealment, do 
you see ? And the thing will go on by itself, for we are sure 
not to be disturbed here. That is what we must do, eh ? " 

With docility he answered : 

"Yes, yes." 

But she, lost in reflection, weighed every detail ; and little 
by little, as the plan developed in her head, she discussed 
and improved it 

" Only, my darling," she went on, " it would be foolish not 
to take our precautions. If we are to be arrested on the 
morrow, I prefer to remain as we are. Look here, I have 
read this somewhere, I have forgotten where, in a novel for 
sure : the best thing would be to make believe that he com- 
mitted suicide. For some time back he has been very 
peculiar, not quite right in his head, and so gloomy that no 
one would be surprised to suddenly learn that he came here 
and killed himself. But then, we must arrange matters in 
such a way that the idea of suicide will seem probable. Is 
it not so?" 

" Without a doubt," he replied. 

After a pause, S^verine, who had been thinking, resumed : 



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The Monomaniac 355 

" Eh ! Something to hide the trace. I say, here is an 
idea that has just struck me! Supposing he got that knife 
in his throat, we should only have to carry him together over 
there and lay him across the line. Do you understand ? We 
could place him with his neck on a rail, so that he would 
be decapitated by the first train that passed. After that they 
could make their investigations. With his head and neck 
crushed, there would no longer be a hole, nothing ! Do you 
agree ? Answer ! " 

" Yes, I agree," said he ; " it is capital." 

Both became animated. She was almost gay, and quite 
proud of her faculty of imagination. 

"But, my darling," she continued, " I have just been thinking, 
there is something more. If you remain here with me, the 
suggestion of suicide will certainly be viewed with suspicion. 
You must go away. Do you understand. You will leave 
to-morrow, openly, in the presence of Cabuche and Misard, 
so that the feet of your departure may be well established. 
You will take the train at Barentin, and leave it at Rouen, 
on some pretence or other; then, as soon as it is dark, you 
will return, and I will let you in the back way. It is only 
four leagues, and you can be here in less than three hours. 
This time everything is settled, and, if you like, it is agreed." 

" Yes," he answered ; "lam willing, and it is agreed." 

It was now he who reflected, and there came a long silence. 
All at once, she broke out : 

" Yes ; but what about the pretext for bringing him here ? 
In any case, he could only take the eight o'clock at night train, 
after coming off duty, and would not get here before ten 
o'clock, which is all the better. Hi ! that person who wishes 
to see the house, with a view to purchasing it, of whom 
Misard spoke to me, and who is coming the day after to- 
morrow morning ! That will do. I will send my husband a 
wire the first thing, to say his presence is absolutely necessary. 
He will be here to-morrow night. You will leave in the 



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35 6 The Monomaniac 

afternoon, and will be able to get back before he arrives. It 
will be dark, no moon, nothing to interfere with us. Every- 
thing dovetails in perfectly." 

" Yes," said he approvingly, " perfectly ." 
When they at last went to sleep, it was not daylight, but 
a streak of dawn began to whiten the gloom that had hidden 
them from one another, as if both had been wrapped in a 
black mantle. He slept like a top until ten o'clock, without 
a dream; and, when he opened his eyes, he was alone. 
S^verine was dressing in her own apartment, on the other side 
of the landing. A sheet of clear sun entered through the 
window of the room occupied by Jacques, showing up the 
red curtains of the bedstead, the red paper on the walls, all 
that red with which the place was flaming ; while the house 
tottered in the thunder of a train that had just sped past. 
It must have been this train that awakened him. Bedazzled 
by the glare of light, he looked at the sun, at the streaming 
crimson surroundings amidst which he found himself; then 
he recollected : the matter was settled, it was the next night 
that he would kill, when this great sun had disappeared. 

The day passed as had been arranged by SeVerine and 
Jacques. Before breakfast, she requested Misard to take 
the telegram for her husband to Doinville; and at about 
three o'clock, as Cabuche was there, Jacques openly made his 
preparations for departure. As he was leaving to catch the 
4.15 train from Barentin, Cabuche, having nothing to do, 
feeling himself drawn to the other by his secret passion, 
happy to find in the sweetheart something in common with 
the woman he was in love with himself, accompanied the 
driver to the station. Jacques reached Rouen at 4.40, and, 
getting down, found accommodation at a small inn near the 
railway kept by a woman from the same neighbourhood as 
himself. He spoke of looking up his comrades on the 
morrow, before proceeding to Paris to resume duty. But he 
said he felt very tired, having presumed too much on his 



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The Monomaniac 357 

strength ; and, at six o'clock, he went off to bed, in a room 
he had taken on the ground floor, which had a window 
opening on a deserted alley. Ten minutes later, he was on 
the road to La Croix-de-Maufras, having got out of this 
window without being seen, and taken good care to close 
the shutters, so as to be able to secretly return the same 
way. 

It was not until a quarter after nine that Jacques found 
himself before the solitary house standing aslant beside the 
line, in the distress of its abandonment. The night was 
very dark, not a glimmer could be distinguished on the 
hermetically closed front. And Jacques again felt that painful 
blow in his heart, that feeling of frightful sadness which 
seemed like the presentiment of the evil that awaited him 
there. 

As had been arranged with S^verine, he threw three small 
pebbles against a shutter of the red room ; then he went 
to the back of the house where a door at last silently opened. 
Having closed it behind him, he followed the light footsteps 
that went feeling their way up the staircase. But when he 
reached the bedroom, and by the light of a large lamp burning 
on the corner of a table perceived the bed in disorder, the 
clothes of the young woman thrown on a chair, and herself 
in a dressing-gown, with her volume of hair arranged for the 
night, coiled on the top of her head, leaving her neck bare, 
he stood motionless with surprise. 

" What ! " he exclaimed ; " you had gone to bed ? " 

"Of course," she answered, "that is much better. An 
idea struck me. You see, when he arrives and I go down, as 
I am to open the door to him, he will have still less cause 
to be distrustful. I shall tell him I have a headache. Misard 
already knows I am not well. And this will permit me to 
affirm that I never left this room when they find him to-morrow, 
down there, on the line." 

But Jacques shuddered, and lost his temper. 



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35 8 The Monomaniac 

"No, no," said he, "dress yourself. You must be up. 
You cannot remain as you are." 

She was astonished, and began to laugh. 

" But why, my darling ? " she inquired. " Do not be 
anxious, I can assure you I do not feel at all cold. Just see 
how warm I am ! " 

She advanced towards him in a caressing manner, to take 
him by the shoulders, and in raising her arms displayed 
her bosom through the dressing-gown she had neglected to 
fasten, and the night-dress that had come undone. But as 
he drew back, in increasing irritation, she became docile. 

"Do not be angry," said she, "I will get between the 
sheets again, and then you will have no reason to be afraid 
that I shall catch cold." 

When she was in bed, with the clothes up to her chin, 
he seemed more calm. And she continued talking quietly, 
explaining how she had arranged everything in her head. 

"As soon as he knocks," she said, "I shall go down 
and open the door. First of all, I had the idea of letting 
him come up here, where you would be in waiting for him. 
But to get his body below again, would have caused com- 
plications; and, besides, this room has a parquetry floor, 
whereas the vestibule is tiled, and I shall easily be able to 
wash it if there should be any spots. Just before you came, as 
I was undressing, I thought of a novel I had read, in which 
the author relates that one man to kill another stripped him- 
self. Do you understand? A wash afterwards, and the 
clothes are free from any spots. What do you say? Sup- 
posing we were to do the same?" 

He looked at her in bewilderment But she had her gentle 
face, her clear eyes of a little girl, and was simply thinking 
of arranging the plan perfectly, in order to ensure success. 
All this passed through his head. But her suggestion, the idea 
of being bespattered with the blood of the murder, brought on 
his abominable shiver which shook him to the bones. 



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The Monomaniac 359 

" No, no ! " he answered. " Do you wish us to act like 
savages? Why not devour his heart as well? How you 
must hate him ! " 

Her face suddenly became clouded. This remark took her 
from her thoughts of prudent preparation, to reveal to her the 
horror of the deed. Her eyes filled with tears, and she said : 

" I have suffered too much for the last few months, to have 
much affection for him. I have repeated a hundred times 
over : anything rather than remain another week with this 
man. But you are right. It is frightful to come to that, 
we really must want to be happy together. Anyhow, we 
will go down without a light You will stand behind the 
door, and when I have opened, and he has come in, you 
will do what you like. If I interfere, it is only to help you ; 
it is so that you may not have all the trouble yourself. I 
am arranging the thing as well as I can." 

He went to the table where he saw the knife, the weapon 
that had already been used by the husband, and which she 
had evidently placed there, so that he might strike him in 
his turn with it. The wide open blade shone beneath the 
lamp. Jacques took it up and examined it. She watched 
him, but said nothing. As he held the weapon in his hand 
there was no need to speak to him about it. And she only 
opened her lips when he had laid it down again on the table. 

" Listen, my darling," she continued, " I am not urging 
you on to it, am I ? There is still time. Go away, if you do 
not feel you can do it." 

But he became obstinate, and with a violent gesture 
exclaimed : 

" Do you take me for a coward ? This time it is settled. 
I have sworn." 

At that moment, the house was set rocking by the thunder 
of a train, which passed like a thunder-bolt, and so close to 
the room that it seemed to go through it in its roar, and 
Jacques added : 



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360 The Monomaniac 

"There is his train. The through train to Paris. He 
got down at Barentin, and will be here in half an hour." 

Neither Jacques nor SeVerine made any further remark for 
some time. In their minds they saw this man advancing 
through the night along the narrow paths. Jacques had 
begun to walk up and down the room, as if counting the steps 
of the other whom each stride brought a little nearer. 
Another, another; and, at the last one, he would be in 
ambush behind the vestibule door, and would drive the knife 
into his neck the moment he entered. SeVerine, still with 
the bedclothes up to her chin, lying on her back, with her 
great eyes motionless, watched him going and coming, 
her mind lulled by the cadence of his walk, which reached 
her like the echo of distant footsteps over there. They 
came without pause, one after the other, and nothing would 
now stop them. When the sufficient number had been taken, 
she would spring out of bed, and go down to open the door, 
with bare feet and without a light. " Is it you, my dear ? 
Come in, I went to bed ! " she would say. And he would not 
even answer. He would sink down in the obscurity with his 
throat gashed open. 

Again a train went by. One on the down-line this time, 
the slow train which passed La Croix-de-Maufras five minutes 
after the other. Jacques stopped in his walk, surprised. 
Only five minutes had expired ! How long the half hour 
would be ! He experienced the necessity of keeping on the 
move, and resumed striding from one end of the room to 
the other. He began to feel anxious, and was already 
communing with himself: would he be able to do it? He 
was familiar with the progress of the phenomenon within him, 
from having followed it on more than ten different occasions ; 
first of all a certainty, an absolute resolution to kill ; then a 
weight in the hollow of the chest, a chill in feet and hands ; 
and all at once the loss of vigour, the impotence of the will 
to act upon the muscles which had become inert. 



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The Monomaniac 361 

In order to gain energy by reasoning, he repeated what 
he had said to himself so often : it was his interest to suppress 
this man — the fortune awaiting him in America, the possession 
of the woman he loved. The worst of it was, that on finding 
the latter so scantily clothed a few moments before, he verily 
believed the enterprise would again come to naught; for, as 
soon as the old shiver returned, he ceased to have command 
over himself. For an instant he had trembled in presence 
of the temptation which became too great : she offering herself, 
and the open knife lying there. But now he felt strong, 
girded for the effort. He could do it. And he continued 
waiting for the man, striding up and down the apartment 
from door to window, passing at each turn beside the bed 
which he would not look at. 

SeVerine continued to lie still in that bed. With her head 
motionless on the pillow, she now watched him come and 
go in a seesaw motion of the eyes. She also felt anxious, 
agitated with the fear that this night his courage again would 
fail him. Polish off this business and begin anew, that was 
all she wanted. She was entirely for the one who held her, and 
heartless for the other whom she had never cared for. They 
were getting rid of him because he was in the way. Nothing 
could be more natural ; and she had to reflect, to be touched 
by the abomination of the crime. As soon as the vision of 
blood and the horrible complications disappeared, she resumed 
her smiling serenity with her innocent, tender, and docile face. 

Nevertheless, she, who thought she knew Jacques, was 
astonished at what she observed. He had his round head 
of a handsome young man, his curly hair, his coal black 
moustache, his brown eyes sparkling with gold ; but* his lower 
jaw advanced so prominently, with a sort of biting expression, 
that it disfigured him. He had just now looked at her as 
he passed, as if in spite of himself; and the brilliancy of his 
eyes became deadened with a ruddy cloud, while at the same 
time he started backward in a recoil of all his frame. 



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362 The Monomaniac 

Why did he avoid her? Could it be because he was 
losing his courage, once more? Latterly, ignorant of the 
constant danger of death threatening her while in his company, 
she had attributed her instinctive fright, for which there was 
no apparent cause, to the presentiment of an approaching 
rupture. The conviction abruptly took firm hold of her, that 
if presently he found himself unable to strike, he would flee 
never to return. After that she made up her mind that he 
would kill, and that she would know how to give him strength, 
should he need it. 

At this moment another train passed : an interminably 
long goods train, whose extensive string of trucks seemed to 
be rolling on for ever in the oppressive silence that reigned 
in the apartment. And, leaning on her elbow, she waited 
until this tempestuous disturbance became lost in the depth 
of the slumbering country. 

" Another quarter of an hour," said Jacques, aloud. " He 
has passed B^court Wood and is half-way. Ah ! how long it 
is to wait ! " 

But, as he returned towards the window, he found S^verine 
standing in front of the bed. 

"Suppose we go down with the lamp?" she suggested. 
"You can see the spot where you will place yourself. I 
will show you how I shall open the door, and the movement 
you will have to make." 
He drew back, trembling. 
" No, no!" he exclaimed. " No lamp ! " 
"But just listen," she continued, "we will hide it after- 
wards. You see we must form an idea of the position." 
" No, no ! " he repeated. " Get into bed again." 
Instead of obeying, she advanced towards him with the 
invincible, despotic smile of the woman who knows herself 
to be all powerful. When she held him in her arms, he 
would give way, he would do as she desired; and she con- 
tinued talking in a caressing voice to conquer him. 



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The Monomaniac 3^3 

"Come, my darling," she said, "what is the matter with 
you? One would think you were afraid of me. As soon 
as I approach you seem to avoid me. But if you only 
knew how much I need to lean on you at this time, to 
feel you there, that we are absolutely of the same mind for 
ever and ever. Do you understand?" 

She at last made him retreat with his back to the table, 
and he could not flee further. He looked at her in the 
bright light of the lamp. Never had he seen her as she 
was then, with the front of her night-dress in disorder, and 
her hair coiled up so high that her neck was quite bare. He 
was choking, struggling, already in a fury, quite giddy with 
the flood of blood that rushed to his head, at the same 
moment as the abominable shiver fell upon him. And he 
remembered that the knife was there behind him, on the 
table. He instinctively felt it there, he had only to stretch 
out his hand. 

By an effort he still managed to stammer : 

" Go back to bed, I implore you." 

But she continued to approach until she came close to 
him. 

"Kiss me," she exclaimed, "kiss me with all the love 
you feel for me ! That will give us courage. Ah ! yes, 
courage, we are in need of it ! We must love in a different 
way to others, stronger than others to do what we are about 
to do. Kiss me with all your heart, with all your soul ! " 

He no longer breathed. He felt as if he was being 
strangled. The clamour of a multitude in his brain pre- 
vented him from hearing; while biting fire behind the 
ears burnt holes in his head, gained his arms, his legs, drove 
him from his own body, in the frantic rush of that other 
one — the invading brute. His hands were about to escape 
from his control in the frenzy excited by this feminine semi- 
nudity. The bare bosom pressing against his clothes, the 
neck so white, so delicate, extended in irresistible temptation, 



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364 The Monomaniac 

at last plunged him into a state of furious giddiness, over- 
powering, tearing away, annihilating his will. 

" Kiss me, my darling," she repeated, "while we have still 
a minute left. He will be here, you know. He might knock 
from one moment to another, now, if he has walked quick. 
As you will not go downstairs to arrange matters beforehand, 
do not fail to bear this in mind: I shall let him in. You 
will be behind the door ; and do not wait, do it at once I 
Oh ! at once, to get it over ! I love you so fondly, we shall 
be so happy ! He is nothing but a wicked man, who makes 
me suffer, and who is the sole obstacle to our happiness. 
Kiss me, oh! so hard, so hard! Kiss me as if you were 
going to devour me, so that nothing may remain of me 
beyond yourself!" 

Jacques, feeling behind him with his right hand, had 
secured the knife without turning round. And for a moment 
he remained in the same position tightening his grasp on 
the weapon. Could the feeling that had come over him 
be a return of that thirst to avenge those very ancient 
offences, the exact recollection of which escaped him, that 
rancour amassed from male to male since the first deception 
in the depths of the caverns? He fixed his wild eyes on 
SeVerine. He now only required to lay her dead on her 
back, like a prey torn from others. The gate of terror opened 
on the dark sexual chasm. Love, even unto death. Destroy, 
to have more absolute possession. 

" Kiss me, kiss me ! " she pleaded. 

She presented her submissive face in imploring tenderness, 
displaying her bare neck at the part where it voluptuously 
met the bosom. And he, seeing her white skin as in a 
burst of flame, raised his fist armed with the knife. But 
she perceived the flash of the blade and started back, 
gaping in surprise and terror. 

" Jacques, Jacques I " she cried ; "me? Good God ! 
Why?" 



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The Monomaniac 365 

With set teeth and answering not a word, he pursued her. 
A brief struggle brought her again beside the bed. She 
shrank from him, haggard, without defence, her night-dress 
in shreds. 

" Why ? good God ! Why ?" she continued asking. 

His fist came down, and the knife stuck the inquiry 
in her throat. In striking, he twisted the blade round in 
a frightful compulsion of the hand which satisfied itself. It 
was the same blow as' President Grandmorin had received, 
inflicted at the same place, and with the same fury. Did 
she shriek? He never knew. The Paris express flew by 
at this moment with such violence and rapidity that it shook 
the floor ; and S^verine was dead, as if struck down in this 
tempestuous blast. 

Jacques, standing motionless, now looked at her, stretched 
at his feet before the bed. The riot of the train was dying 
away in the distance as he gazed upon her in the oppressive 
silence of the red bedroom. On the ground, amidst those red 
hangings, those red curtains, she bled profusely. A crimson 
stream trickled down between her breasts, spreading over 
the abdomen to one of the lower limbs, whence it fell in 
great drops upon the floor. Her night-dress, rent half asunder, 
was drenched with it. He could never have believed she 
had so much blood. 

But what retained him there, haunted, was the abominable 
look of terror that the face of this pretty, gentle, docile 
woman took in death. The black hair stood on end as 
a helmet of horror, dark as night. The blue eyes, immeasur- 
ably wide open, were still inquiring, aghast, terrified at the 
mystery. Why? why had he murdered her? And she had 
just been reduced to nothing, carried off in the fatality of 
murder, a creature irresponsible, whom life had rolled from 
vice into blood, and who had remained tender and innocent 
notwithstanding, for she had never understood. 

Jacques was astonished. He heard the sniffing of animals, 



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366 The Monomaniac 

the grunting of wild boars, the roaring of lions ; and he be- 
came calm, it was himself breathing. At last ! at last ! he had 
gratified his thirst — he had killed ! Yes; he had done that. 
He felt elevated by ungovernable joy, by intense delight at 
the full satisfaction of his everlasting desire. He experienced 
surprising pride, an aggrandisement of his male sovereignty. 
He had slaughtered the woman. He possessed her as he had 
so long desired to possess her, entirely to the point of destroy- 
ing her. She had ceased to belong, she never would belong 
any more to anybody. And a bitter recollection recurred 
to him, that of the other murdered victim, the corpse of 
President Grandmorin which he had seen on that terrible 
night five hundred yards from the house. This delicate body 
before him, so white, striped with red, was the same human 
shred, the broken puppet, the limp rag that a knife makes 
of a creature. 

Yes, that was it. He had killed, and he had this thing 
on the ground. She had just been hurled down like the 
other; but on her back, the left arm doubled under her 
right side, twisted, half-torn from her shoulder. Was it not 
on the night when the body of the President was found 
that with heart beating fit to burst, he had sworn to dare 
in his turn, in a prurience for murder which exasperated 
him like a concupiscence at the sight of the slaughtered man ? 
Ah ! if he could only have the pluck, satisfy himself, drive 
in the knife! This had germinated and developed within 
him obscurely. For a year, not an hour had gone by without 
him having advanced towards the inevitable result. Even 
with his arms about the neck of this woman, and amidst her 
kisses, the secret work was approaching its termination ; and 
the two murders had become united. Did not the one 
show the logic of the other ? 

The clatter of a house falling down, a jolting of the floor 
drew Jacques from his gaping contemplation of the dead 
woman. Were the doors flying into splinters? Had people 



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The Monomaniac 367 

arrived to arrest him ? He looked around, but only to find 
dull, silent solitude. Ah ! yes ; another train ! But the man 
who would be knocking at the door below, the man whom 
he wished to kill! He had completely forgotten him. If 
he regretted nothing, he already judged himself an idiot. 
What ! what had happened ? The woman he loved, who 
loved him passionately, was lying on the floor with her throat 
cut; while the husband, the obstacle to his happiness, was 
still alive, and still advancing step by step in the obscurity. 
He had been unable to wait for this man, who for months 
had been so sparing of the scruples of his education, and 
of the ideas of humanity slowly acquired and transmitted ; 
with contempt for his own interest, he had just been carried 
away by the heredity of violence, by that craving to commit 
murder, which in the primitive forests threw animal upon 
animal. 

Does anyone kill as the result of reasoning ? People only 
kill by an impulse of blood and nerves — the necessity to 
live, the joy of being strong. He now merely experienced 
the lassitude of one satiated. Then he became scared and 
endeavoured to understand, but without finding anything else 
than astonishment and the bitter sadness of the irreparable 
as a result of his gratified passion. 

The sight of the unfortunate creature, who still gazed 
at him with her look of terrified interrogation, became 
atrocious. Wishing to turn away his eyes, he abruptly felt 
the sensation of another white form rising up at the foot of 
the bed. Could this be the double of the murdered woman ? 
Then he recognised Flore. She had already returned, while 
he had the fever after the accident. Doubtless she was 
triumphant, at this moment, at being avenged. 

He turned icy cold with terror. He asked himself what 
he could be thinking of, to loiter thus in this room. He 
had killed, he was gorged, satiated, intoxicated with the dread- 
ful wine of crime. Stumbling against the knife which had 



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368 The Monomaniac 

remained on the ground, he fled, rolling down the stairs. He 
opened the front door giving on the perron, as if the small 
one would not have been sufficiently wide, and dashed out 
into the pitch-dark night where his furious gallop became 
lost. He never turned round. The dubious-looking house, 
set down aslant at the edge of the line, remained open and 
desolate behind him, in its abandonment of death. 

Cabuche, that night as on the others, had found his way 
through the hedge, and was prowling under the window of 
Sdverine. He knew very well that Roubaud was expected, 
and was not astonished at the light filtering through a chink 
in one of the shutters. But this man bounding from the 
top of the steps, this frantic gallop like that of an animal 
tearing away into the country, struck him dumbfounded 
with surprise. It was already too late to pursue the fugitive, 
and the quarryman remained bewildered, full of uneasiness 
and hesitation before the open door, gaping upon the black 
hole formed by the vestibule. What had occurred ? Should 
he enter? The heavy silence, the absolute stillness while 
the lamp continued burning in the upper room, gave him 
pangs of anguish. 

At last, making up his mind, he groped his way upstairs. 
Before the door of the red bedroom, which had also been 
left open, he stopped. In the placid light, he seemed to 
perceive in the distance a heap of petticoats lying at the 
foot of the bedstead. No doubt S£verine was undressed. 
He called gently to her, feeling alarmed, while his veins 
began throbbing violently. Then he caught sight of the 
blood, and understood. With a terrible cry that came from 
his lacerated heart, he sprang forward. Great God ! It was 
she, assassinated, struck down there in her pitiful nudity. He 
thought her still rattling, and felt such despair, such painful 
shame at seeing her quite nude in her agony; that he 
lifted her in a fraternal transport, in his open arms, and, 
placing her on the bed, drew the sheet over her. 



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The Monomaniac 369 

But in this clasp, the only tenderness between them, he 
covered his chest and both his hands with blood. He was 
streaming with her gore; and at this moment he saw that 
Roubaud and Misard were there. Finding all the doors open, 
they also had just decided to come upstairs. The husband 
arrived late, having stopped to talk with the gatekeeper, who 
had then accompanied him, continuing the conversation 
on the way. Both, in stupefaction, turned their eyes on 
Cabuche, whose hands were dripping with blood like those 
of a butcher. 

"The same stroke as for the President," said Misard at 
last, while he examined the wound. 

Roubaud wagged his head up and down without answering, 
unable to take his eyes off SeVerine, off that look of abomin- 
able terror, with the hair standing on end above the forehead, 
and the blue eyes immeasurably wide open, inquiring : Why ? 



24 



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CHAPTER XII 

THREE months later, on a warm June night, Jacques 
was driving the Havre express that had left Paris at 
6.30. His engine, No. 608, was quite new, and he began 
to know it thoroughly. It was not easy to handle, being 
restive and capricious, after the manner of those young nags 
which require to be broken in by hard work before they 
take kindly to harness. He often swore at it, and regretted 
La Lison. Moreover, he had to watch this new locomotive 
very closely, and to constantly keep his hand on the reversing- 
wheel. But on this particular night the sky was so delight- 
fully serene, that he felt inclined to be indulgent, and allowed 
the engine to travel along as it would, while he found enjoy- 
ment in inhaling great draughts of fresh air. Never had he 
been blessed with such splendid health. He was untroubled 
with remorse, and presented the appearance of a man relieved 
of anxiety, and who was perfectly tranquil and happy. 

He who, as a rule, never spoke on the journey, began to 
joke with Pecqueux, whom the management had left with 
him as fireman. 

" What has come to you ? " he inquired. " You've got your 
eyes about you like a man who has been drinking nothing 
but water." 

Pecqueux, in fact, contrary to his habit, seemed to have 
taken nothing and to be very gloomy. 

" It is necessary to have your eyes about you," he answered 
in a harsh voice, " when you want to see what is going on." 

Jacques looked at him in distrust, like a man who has not 

370 



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The Monomaniac 371 

a clear conscience. The week before he had been making 
love to the sweetheart of his comrade, that terrible Philomene, 
who for some time past had been purring round him like 
a lean, amorous cat. He had no affection for her, but 
wanted to ascertain whether he was cured, now that he had 
satisfied his frightful craving. Could he make love to this 
one without plunging a knife into her throat? On two 
occasions when he had been out with her, he had felt 
nothing, no uncomfortable feeling, no shiver. His great joy, 
his appeased and smiling manner must be due, without his 
being aware of it, to the happiness he experienced at being 
like any other man. 

Pecqueux having opened the fire-box of the engine to 
throw in coal, Jacques stopped him. 

"No, no," said he, "do not make up too much fire. It 
is going along very well." 

The fireman in a grumbling tone uttered some abusive 
remarks about the locomotive in reply, and Jacques, so as 
not to get angry, avoided answering him. But he felt that 
the former cordial understanding of three, no longer existed ; 
for the good friendship between him, his comrade, and the 
engine had vanished with the destruction of La Lison. They 
now quarrelled about trifles, about a nut screwed up too tight, 
about a shovel of coal carelessly laid on the bars. And he 
determined to be more prudent in regard to Philomene, 
not wishing to come to open warfare on the narrow foot-plate, 
which afforded him and his fireman standing room as they 
were borne onward. 

So long as Pecqueux played the part of an obedient dog, 
devoted to such a point that he was ready to strangle an 
enemy in gratitude for the kind treatment he received, for 
being permitted to take his little naps, and to polish off the 
remains in the provision basket, the pair lived like brothers, 
silent in the daily danger, and, indeed, having no need of 
words to understand one another. But it would become a 



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37 2 The Monomaniac 

pandemonium if they ceased to agree, pent-up side by side, 
and swayed to and fro in the oscillation of the engine while 
struggling together. It so happened that the preceding week, 
the company had been compelled to separate the driver and 
fireman on the Cherbourg express, because having been 
set at variance by a woman, the driver had taken to bullying 
his fireman, who no longer obeyed him. From words they 
went to blows, until regular stand-up fights occurred on the 
journey, without a thought for the long tail of passengers 
rolling along behind them full speed. 

Pecqueux opened the fire-box twice more and threw on 
coal in disobedience to orders, thereby seeking, no doubt, 
a quarrel ; but Jacques, with an air of having all his attention 
centred on his driving, feigned not to notice him, merely 
taking the precaution to turn the wheel of the injector on 
each occasion, to reduce the pressure. It was so mild, the 
gentle fresh breeze as they cut through space was so pleasant 
on this warm July night. At 11.5, when the express reached 
Havre, the two men polished up the engine with an appear- 
ance of being on the same good terms as formerly. 

As they left the depdt to go to bed, in Rue Frangois- 
Mazeline, they heard a voice calling them. 

"Why are you in such a hurry to be off? Step in for 
a minute." 

It was Philomene, who, from the doorstep of the cottage 
of her brother, must have been looking out for Jacques. She 
had made a movement of lively annoyance on perceiving 
Pecqueux; and if she determined to hail them together, it 
was for the pleasure of enjoying a chat with her new friend, 
in spite of having to support the presence of the other. 

" Just leave us alone, will you ? " growled Pecqueux. " Go 
to blazes! We're sleepy." 

" How amiable he is ! " gaily resumed Philomene. " But 
Monsieur Jacques is not like you. He'll take a dram. Will 
you not, Monsieur Jacques ? " 



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The Monomaniac 373 

The driver was going to refuse, out of prudence, when the 
fireman abruptly accepted, influenced by the idea of watching 
them, and so making quite sure of their feelings towards one 
another. Entering the kitchen they seated themselves at the 
table, on which Philombne placed glasses and a bottle of 
brandy, saying in a low tone: 

"Try not to make too much noise, because my brother 
is asleep upstairs, and he is not very pleased when I receive 
friends." 

Then, as she filled their glasses, she immediately added : 

" By the way, you know that Mother Lebleu pegged out this 
morning ? Oh ! as to that I said so : it will kill her, I said, 
if they put her in that lodging on the back — a regular prison ! 
Still she lasted four months, chewing the cud of bitterness, 
because she could see nothing but zinc. And what gave her 
the finishing stroke, when she found it impossible to move 
from her armchair, was assuredly the knowledge that she 
would never more be able to keep watch on Mademoiselle 
Guichon and Monsieur Dabadie. It was a habit she had 
got. Yes, she was enraged at never having been able to 
catch them, and she died of it." 

Philomfene paused to toss off a thimbleful of brandy, and 
resumed with a laugh : 

"Of course there is something going on between them. 
Only they are too sharp ! It is quite a puzzle ! All the 
same, I think little Madame Moulin saw them one night. 
But there is no fear of her talking, she is too stupid ; and, 
besides, her husband, the assistant station-master " 

Again she broke off to exclaim : 

" I say, it is next week that the Roubaud case comes on 
for trial at Rouen ! " 

Until then, Jacques and Pecqueux had listened to her 
without putting in a word. The latter simply thought her 
very talkative. Never had she exerted her conversational 
powers to such an extent with him ; and *he kept his eyes on 



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374 The Monomaniac 

her, becoming little by little heated by jealousy at seeing her 
so excited in the presence of his chief. 

" Yes," answered the driver, in a perfectly tranquil manner, 
" I received the summons." 

Philomfene drew nearer to him, delighted at being able to 
graze his elbow. 

" So have I," she, said. " I am a witness. Ah ! Monsieur 
Jacques, when I was questioned about you, for you know the 
examining-magistrate wished to ascertain the real truth in 
regard to your acquaintance with this poor lady ; yes, when 
he questioned me, I said to him : But, monsieur, he adored 
her, it is impossible that he can have done her any harm ! 
Is not that right? I had seen you together and was in a 
fit position to speak." 

" Oh ! " said the young man, with a gesture of indifference ; 
" I was not anxious. I could say hour for hour how I passed 
my time. If the company have kept me, it is because there 
is not the slightest thing they can reproach me with." 

A pause followed, and all three slowly drank their brandy. 

"It makes one shudder," continued Philomfene. "Just 
fancy, that ferocious brute Cabuche whom they arrested still 
covered with the blood of that poor lady ! What an idiot a 
man must be to kill a woman because he is in love with her, 
as if that would help him, when the woman no longer existed ! 
And what I shall never forget so long as I live, was when 
Monsieur Cauche, over there on the platform, came and 
arrested Monsieur Roubaud as well. I was there. You 
know this did not happen until a week afterwards, when 
Monsieur Roubaud, the day following the burial of his wife, 
resumed his duty with an air of perfect tranquillity. So then, 
Monsieur Cauche tapped him on the shoulder, saying he 
had orders to take him to prison. What do you think of 
that ? Those two who never left one another, who gambled 
together night after night till daybreak! But when you 
are a commissary of police you must take even your father 



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The Monomaniac 375 

and mother to the guillotine if it is your duty to do so. 
Monsieur Cauche does not care a fig 1 I caught sight of 
him at the Cafe du Commerce a little while ago shuffling 
the cards, without troubling any more about his friend than 
the great Mogul ! " 

Pecqueux, clenching his. teeth, struck his fist on the table, 
and exclaimed with a violent oath : 

" If I were in the place of that Roubaud I'd " 

Then, breaking off and turning to Jacques, he added : 

" What ! you make love to his wife, another man kills her, 
and they take him off to the assizes. No ; it's enough to make 
one burst with rage ! " 

"But, you great donkey," said Philometie, "it is because 
they accuse him of having urged the other to rid him of 
his wife. Yes, in connection with money matters, or some- 
thing else ! It appears that the watch belonging to President 
Grandmorin, was found in the hut of Cabuche. You 
remember, the gentleman who was murdered in a railway 
carriage eighteen months ago. Then they hooked that nasty 
job on to the one of the other day, and made a long 
story of it, as black as ink. I cannot explain it all to you, 
but it was in the newspaper where it filled at least two 
columns." 

Jacques, who was absent-minded, did not even seem to 
be listening. 

"What is the use of puzzling our brains about it?" he 
murmured. "What does it matter to us? If the judicial 
authorities do not know what they are doing, how can we 
expect to know?" 

Then, with eyes lost in space, and pallid cheeks, he 
murmured : 

" In all this there is only that poor girl who excites pity ! 
Ah ! the poor, poor girl ! " 

" As for me," concluded Pecqueux, " if anyone took it into 
his head to interfere with my wench, I should begin by 



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37 6 The Monomaniac 

strangling them both. After that, they might cut off my 
head. I should not care a straw." 

Another silence ensued. Philomene, who was filling up 
the glasses a second time, affected to shrug her shoulders 
and chuckle; but, in reality, she felt quite upset, and gave 
Pecqueux a searching look sideways. He had neglected his 
personal appearance considerably, and looked very dirty and 
ragged since Mother Victoire, as a result of her accident, had 
become impotent, and had been obliged to relinquish her post 
at the station to enter an almshouse. She was no longer 
there, tolerant and maternal, to slip pieces of silver into his 
pocket, to mend his clothes, so that the other one at Havre 
might not accuse her of keeping their man untidy. And 
Philomene, bewitched by the smart, clean look of Jacques, put 
on an expression of disgust. 

" Do you mean that you would strangle your Paris wench ? " 
she inquired in bravado. "There is no fear of anybody 
carrying her off!" 

" That one or another ! " he growled. 

But she was already touching glasses in a joking vein. 

" Look here ! to your health ! " she exclaimed. " And 
bring your linen to me, so that I may have it washed and 
mended, for really you no longer do honour, to either of us. 
To your health, Monsieur Jacques ! " 

The latter started, as if disturbed in a dream. Notwith- 
standing the complete absence of remorse and the feeling 
of relief and physical comfort, in which he had been living 
since the murder, SeVerine sometimes passed before his eyes 
as now, moving his gentle inner self to tears. And he touched 
glasses, remarking precipitately to hide his trouble : 

" You know that we are going to war ? " 

"Can it be possible?" exclaimed Philomene. "Who 
with ? " 

"Why, with the Prussians," answered Jacques. "Yes, on 
account of one of their princes, who wishes to be King of 



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The Monomaniac 377 

Spain. Yesterday in the Chamber they were occupied with 
nothing else." 

Then she was in despair. 

" Ah ! well ! That's a nice thing," said she. " They bothered 
us enough with their elections, their plebiscite, and their riots 
at Paris ! I say, if they do fight, will they take away all 
the men?" 

" Oh ! as to us, we are shunted ! They cannot disorganise 
the railways. Only we shall have a warm time, on account 
of the transport of troops and provisions! Anyhow, if it 
happens, everyone will have to do his duty." 

Thereupon, he rose, noticing that she was becoming too 
familiar, and that Pecqueux perceived it. Indeed, the face 
of the latter had become crimson, and he was already 
clenching his fists. 

" It is time for bed," said Jacques. " Let us be off." 

" Yes, that will be the better thing to do," stammered the 
fireman. 

He had grasped the arm of Philomene, and squeezed it fit 
to break it. Restraining a cry of agony, she contented herself 
with whispering in the ear of the driver, while the other 
finished his glass in a fury : 

"Be on your guard. He is a regular brute when he has 
been drinking." 

But heavy footsteps could now be heard coming downstairs, 
and Philomene looked scared. 

" It is my brother," said she. " Slip out quick ! slip out 
quick!" 

The two men were not twenty paces from the house when 
they heard slaps followed by yells. Philomene was being 
abominably chastised, like a little girl caught in the act, with 
her nose in the jam-pot. The driver stopped, ready to run 
to her assistance, but the fireman held him back. 

" What are you going to do ? " he inquired ; " it is no business 
of yours. Ah ! the slut ! if he could only beat her to death ! " 



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37 8 The Monomaniac 

On reaching the Rue Fran^ois-Mazeline, Jacques and 
Pecqueux went to bed without exchanging a word. The two 
bedsteads almost touched in the small room, and for a long 
time the men remained awake with their eyes open, listening 
to the breathing of one another. 

It was on the Monday that the Roubaud trial was to 
commence at Rouen. This case proved a triumph for the 
examining-magistrate, Denizet, for there was no lack of praise 
in the judicial world as to the way in which he had brought 
the complicated and obscure business to a satisfactory issue. 
It was a masterpiece of clever analysis, said they ; a logical 
substitution for the truth ; in a word, a genuine creation. 

First of all, M. Denizet had caused Cabuche to be arrested 
as soon as he had visited the house at La Croix-de-Maufras 
a few hours after the murder of S£verine. Everything pointed 
openly to this man as author of the crime : the blood trickling 
down him, the overwhelming evidence of Roubaud and 
Misard, who related how they had surprised him, alone 
with the corpse, and in a state of bewilderment. Questioned, 
pressed, to say in what manner and for what purpose he 
found himself in this room, the quarryman stammered out 
a story, which appeared so silly, and so like the usual run 
of such stories, that the examining-magistrate received it with 
a shrug of the shoulders. 

He had been expecting this story, which was always the 
same, the tale of an imaginary murderer, the invented culprit, 
whom the real culprit pretended he had heard fleeing across 
the dark country. This bugbear must be a long way off, 
must he not, if he should still happen to be running? 
Besides, on Cabuche being asked what he was doing in 
front of the house at such a time, he became troubled, refused 
to answer, and ended by saying he was walking about. This 
was childish. How could anyone believe in the existence 
of this mysterious unknown, who came and committed a 
murder, and then ran off, leaving all the doors wide open 



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The Monomaniac 379 

without having searched a single article of furniture, or carried 
even a pocket-handkerchief away with him ? Where did he 
come from? Why had he killed? 

Nevertheless, the examining-magistrate having heard at 
the commencement of the inquiry, of the intimacy between 
the victim and Jacques, took measures to ascertain how the 
latter had passed his time on the day of the murder; but, 
apart from the accused acknowledging that he had accom- 
panied Jacques to Barentin, to catch the 4.14 train in 
the afternoon ; the innkeeper at Rouen took her solemn oath 
that the young man, who had gone to bed immediately after 
his dinner, did not leave his room until the next morning 
at about seven o'clock. And, moreover, a lover does not 
slaughter without any reason, a sweetheart whom he adores, 
and with whom he has never had the slightest quarrel. It 
would be absurd. No, no ; only one murderer was possible, 
a murderer who was evident, the liberated convict found 
there red-handed, with the knife at his feet, that brute 
beast who had related a rigmarole to the representative of 
justice, fit to send him off to sleep. 

But when M. Denizet reached this point he for a moment 
felt embarrassed, notwithstanding his conviction and his scent, 
which, said he, gave him better information than proofs. 
In a first search made at the hovel of the accused, on the 
outskirts of the forest of B£court, absolutely nothing had 
been found. It having been impossible to prove robbery, 
it became necessary to discover another motive for the 
crime. All at once, in the hazard of an examination, Misard 
put him on the track, by relating that he had one night 
seen Cabuche scale the wall of the property to look through 
the window of the room occupied by Madame Roubaud who 
was going to bed. 

Jacques, on being questioned in his turn, quietly related 
what he knew : the mute adoration of the quarryman for 
the wife of the assistant station-master, his ardent desire to 



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380 The Monomaniac 

be of service to her, ever running after her as if fastened 
to her apron strings. No room, therefore, remained for 
doubt : bestial passion alone had urged him to the crime. 
Everything became quite clear: the man returning by the 
door to which he might have a key, leaving it open in his 
excitement, then the struggle which had brought about the 
murder. 

Nevertheless, one final objection to this theory occurred 
to the examining-magistrate. It appeared singular that the 
man, aware of the imminent arrival of the husband, should 
have chosen the very hour when Roubaud might surprise 
him. But on careful consideration this circumstance turned 
against the accused, and completely overwhelmed him by 
establishing that he must have acted under the influence of 
a supreme crisis, driven crazy by the thought that if he 
failed to take advantage of the time when S6verine was still 
alone, he would lose her for ever, as she would be leaving 
on the morrow. From that moment, the conviction of the 
examining-magistrate was complete and unalterable. 

Harassed by interrogations, taken and retaken through the 
skein of clever questions, careless of the traps laid for him, 
Cabuche obstinately abided by his first version. He was 
passing along the road, breathing the fresh night air, when 
an individual brushed against him as he tore headlong away. 
The fugitive dashed by him so rapidly in the obscurity, 
that he could not even say which way he fled. 

Then, seized with anxiety and having cast a glance at 
the house, he perceived that the door stood wide open, 
and he ended by making up his mind to enter and go 
upstairs. There he found the dead woman, who was still 
warm, and who looked at him with her great eyes. In 
lifting her on the bed, thinking her still alive, he covered 
himself with blood. That was all he knew, and he repeated 
the same tale, never varying in a single detail, with an 
air of confining himself to a story arranged beforehand. 



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The Monomaniac 3 Sl 

When an effort was made to make him say something more, 
he looked wild, and remained silent, after the fashion of a 
man of limited intelligence who did not understand. 

The first time M. Denizet addressed questions to him 
on the subject of his intense passion for the deceased, he 
became very red, like some lad reproached with his first 
love affair; and he denied, he resisted the accusation of 
having thought of becoming intimate with this lady, as if 
it was something very wicked and unavowable, a delicate 
and also a mysterious matter, buried in the innermost recess 
of his heart, and which he was not called upon to unbosom 
to anyone. No, no ! He did not love her. He never 
desired any intimacy with her. They would never make 
him speak of what seemed to him a profanation, now that 
she was dead. 

But this obstinacy in denying a fact that several of the 
witnesses affirmed, turned against him. Naturally, according 
to the theory of the prosecution, it was to his interest to 
conceal his furious passion. And when the examining- 
magistrate, assembling all the proofs, sought to tear the truth 
from him by striking a decisive blow, accusing him point 
blank of murder and rape, he flew into a mad rage of 
protestation. He do that ! he who respected as a saint ! 
The gendarmes who were called in, had to put restraint 
on him ; while he, with great oaths, talked of strangling the 
whole show. The examining-magistrate put him down as a 
most dangerous, cunning scoundrel, but whose violence broke 
out in spite of all, and proved a sufficient avowal of the 
crimes he denied. 

Each time the murder was brought up, Cabuche flew into 
a fury, shouting that it was the other one, the mysterious 
fugitive, who had committed the crime. The inquiry had 
gone so far when M. Denizet, by chance, made a discovery 
which suddenly transformed the case, and gave it ten times 
more importance. He scented out the truth, as he remarked : 



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382 The Monomaniac 

Influenced by a sort of presentiment, he searched the hovel 
occupied by Cabuche, a second time, himself; and behind 
a beam, came upon a hiding-place where he found ladies' 
gloves and pocket-handkerchiefs, while beneath them lay a 
gold watch, which he recognised with great delight. This 
was the watch belonging to President Grandmorin which 
the examining-magistrate had so ardently endeavoured to 
trace formerly. It was a strong watch with two initials 
entwined, and inside the case it bore the number of the 
maker, 2516. The whole business stood out illuminated, 
as in a flash of lightning, the past became connected with 
the present, and when he had joined the chain of facts 
together again, their logic enchanted him. 

But the consequences would stretch so far that, without 
alluding to the watch, he at first questioned Cabuche about 
the gloves and pocket-handkerchiefs. The accused for an 
instant had the avowal ready on the lips ; yes, he adored her 
to such an extent as to kiss the gowns she had worn, to 
pick up, to steal behind her, anything she happened to 
let fall : bits of laces, hooks, pins. Then a feeling of shame 
and invincible modesty made him silent. When the judge, 
making up his mind, thrust the watch before his eyes, he 
looked at it bewildered. He remembered perfectly ; he had 
been surprised to find the watch tied up in the corner of a 
pocket-handkerchief that he had taken from under a bolster 
and carried away with him as a prize. Then it had remained 
in his hut, while he racked his brain thinking how he could 
return it. 

Only what would be the use of relating all this ? He would 
have to own to the other thefts — those odds and ends, the 
linen that smelt so nice, and of which he felt so ashamed. 
Already, everything he said was disbelieved. Besides, his 
power of understanding began to fail him, his simple mind 
became confused, and what went on around him commenced 
to take the aspect of a horrible dream. He no longer flew into 



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The Monomaniac 383 

a rage when accused of murder, but looked as if he had lost 
his senses, repeating in answer to every question put to him 
that he did not know. It regard to the gloves and hand- 
kerchiefs, he did not know. In regard to the watch, he did 
not know. The examining-magistrate plagued him to death. 
He had only to leave him in peace and guillotine him at 
once. 

The following day, M. Denizet had Roubaud arrested. 
Strong in his almighty power, he had issued the warrant in 
one of those moments of inspiration, when he put faith in 
the genius of his perspicacity, and even before he had a 
sufficiently serious charge against the assistant station-master. 
In spite of the many obscure points that still remained, he 
guessed this man to be the pivot, the source of the double 
crime ; and he triumphed at once when he seized a document 
making everything over to the survivor of the two, which 
Roubaud and Siverine had executed before Maitre Colin, 
notary at Havre, a week after coming into possession of La 
Croix-de-Maufras. 

From that time the whole business became clear to his 
mind, with a certainty of reasoning, a strength of evidence 
which conveyed to the framework of the prosecution such 
indestructible solidity that the truth itself would have seemed 
less true, less logical, and tainted with more imagination. 
Roubaud was a coward, who, on two occasions, not daring 
to kill with his own hand, had made use of this violent brute 
Cabuche. The first time, being impatient to inherit from 
President Grandmorin, the terms of whose will he knew, and 
aware, moreover, of the rancour of the quarryman for this 
gentleman, he had pushed him into the coup£ at Rouen, after 
arming him with a knife. Then, when the 10,000 frcs. had 
been shared, the two accomplices would perhaps never have 
met again, had not murder engendered murder. 

And it was here the examining-magistrate displayed that deep 
knowledge of criminal psychology which was so much admired, 



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384 The Monomaniac 

for he now declared that he had never ceased to keep an eye 
on Cabuche, his conviction being that the first murder would 
mathematically bring about another. Eighteen months had 
sufficed for this : the Roubauds were at sixes and sevens. 
The husband had lost the 5,000 frcs. at cards, while the wife 
had come to the point of taking a sweetheart to amuse her- 
self. Doubtless she refused to sell La Croix-de-Maufras, in 
fear lest he should squander the money; perhaps in their 
continual quarrels she threatened to give him up to justice. 
In any case, the evidence of numerous persons established 
the absolute disunion of the couple, and here at last appeared 
the distant consequence of the first crime. Cabuche now 
comes forward again with his brutish instincts, and the 
husband, in the background, arms this man with the knife, 
to definitely ensure possession of this accursed house, which 
had already cost one human life, for himself. 

That was the truth, the appalling truth, everything led up to 
it: the watch discovered in the hut of the quarryman, and 
particularly the two corpses, both struck with the same 
identical blow in the throat, by the same hand, with the same 
weapon — that knife picked up in the room. Nevertheless, 
the prosecution had a doubt on this point. The wound of the 
President appeared to have been inflicted by a sharper and 
smaller blade. 

Roubaud, in the drowsy, heavy manner now peculiar to 
him, at first answered Yes or No to the questions of 
M. Denizet. He did not seem surprised at his arrest, for in 
the slow disorganisation of his being, everything had become 
indifferent to him. To get him to talk, the examining- 
magistrate gave him a warder who never left him. With this 
man he played cards from morning to night, and was perfectly 
happy. Besides, he was convinced of the gilt of Cabuche, 
who alone could be the murderer. Interrogated as to 
Jacques, he shrugged his shoulders with a laugh, thereby 
showing that he was aware of the intimacy that had existed 



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The Monomaniac 385 

between the driver and SeVerine. But when M. Denizet, 
after sounding him, ended by developing his system, inciting 
him, confounding him with his complicity, endeavouring to 
wrench an avowal from him, he, in his confusion at finding 
himself discovered, became remarkably circumspect 

What was this that was being related to him ? It was no 
longer he, it was the quarryman who had killed the President 
just as he had killed S6verine ; yet in both instances he, 
Roubaud, was the guilty one, because the other had struck 
on his account and in his place. This complicated legend 
stupefied and filled him with distrust. Assuredly this must 
be a trap. The lie was advanced, to force him to confess 
his part in the first crime. From the moment of his arrest 
he felt convinced that the old business was coming to the 
surface again. 

Confronted with Cabuche, he declared he did not know him. 
Only, when he repeated he had found him red with blood 
before the corpse, the quarryman flew into a rage, and a 
violent scene, full of extreme confusion ensued, embroiling 
matters more than ever. Three days passed, and the 
examining-magistrate plied the prisoners with question upon 
question, convinced that they had arrived at an understanding 
to play the farce of being hostile to one another. Roubaud, 
who felt very weary, had made up his mind to refrain from 
answering, but all at once, in a moment of impatience, eager 
to end the business, he gave way to a secret impulse that 
had been troubling him for months, and burst out with the 
truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. 

It so happened that on this particular day, M. Denizet 
was exerting his cunning to the utmost. Seated at his writing- 
table, veiling his eyes with their heavy lids, while his mobile 
lips grew thin in an effort of sagacity, he had been exhausting 
himself for an hour in endeavouring, by clever artifices, to 
ensnare this incrassated prisoner, covered with unhealthy yellow 
fat, whom he considered remarkably crafty, notwithstanding 

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3 86 The Monomaniac 

his ponderous frame. And he thought he had tracked 
him step by step, enlaced him on all sides, caught him 
in the trap at last, when Roubaud, with the gesture of a 
man driven to extremities, exclaimed that he had had enough 
of the business, and that he preferred to confess so that 
he might be tormented no further. As there appeared to 
be a desire to make him out guilty in spite of all, let it at 
least be for something he had really done. 

But, as he unfolded his story, his wife led astray by 
Grandmorin, his jealous rage on hearing of this abomina- 
tion, and how he had killed, and why he had taken 
the 10,000 frcs., the eyelids of the examining-magistrate 
rose to the accompaniment of a frown of doubt, while 
irresistible incredulity, professional incredulity, caused his 
lips to distend in a jeering pout. He smiled outright when 
Roubaud came to the end. The rascal was cleverer than 
he had thought : to take the first crime for himself, make it 
a purely passionate crime, free himself from all premeditation 
of theft, particularly of any complicity in the murder of 
SeVerine was certainly a hardy manoeuvre which gave proof 
of unusual intelligence and determination. Only, the thing 
did not hold together. 

"Come, Roubaud," said M. Denizet, "you must not take 
us for children. So you pretend that you were jealous, and 
that it was in a transport of jealousy that you committed 
the murder?" 

"Certainly," answered the other. 

" And, if we admit what you relate," resumed the examining- 
magistrate, "you knew nothing about the intimacy of your 
wife with the President at the time you married her. Does 
that appear likely ? In your case everything tends to prove, 
on the contrary, that the speculation was suggested to you, 
discussed, and accepted. You are given a young girl, brought 
up like a young lady, she receives a marriage portion, her 
protector becomes your protector, you know that he leaves 



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The Monomaniac 387 

you a country house in his will, and you pretend you had 
no suspicion, absolutely none at all ! Get along with you. 
You knew everything, otherwise your marriage would be 
incomprehensible. Besides, the verification of one simple 
fact will suffice to confound you. You are not jealous. 
Dare to say again that you are jealous ! " 

" I say the truth," answered Roubaud. " I killed him in a 
fit of jealous rage." 

"Then," said the examining-magistrate, "after killing the 
President, on account of an intimacy that dated back some 
time, which was of a vague nature and which for that matter 
you invent, explain to me how it was that you allowed your 
wife to have a sweetheart. Yes ; that strapping fellow Jacques 
Lantier ! Everybody has spoken to me about this acquaint- 
ance. You, yourself, have not attempted to conceal from 
me that you were aware of it. You freely allowed them to 
do what they pleased. Why?" 

Roubaud, overcome and with troubled eyes, looked fixedly 
into space without finding an explanation, and ended by 
stammering : 

" I do not know. I killed the other ; I did not kill this 
one." 

" Then," concluded the examining-magistrate, " do not tell 
me, again, that you are a jealous man who avenges himself. 
And I do not advise you to repeat this romance to the gentle- 
men of the jury, for they would only shrug their shoulders. 
Believe me, change your system. Truth alone can save you." 

Henceforth, the more Roubaud stubbornly told this truth, 
the greater liar he was proved to be. Besides, everything 
went against him, and to such a point that his previous 
examination, on the occasion of the first inquiry in connection 
with the Grandmorin murder, which should have served 
to support his new version of the crime, because he had 
denounced Cabuche, became, on the contrary, the proof of 
a remarkably clever understanding between them. 



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388 The Monomaniac 

The examining-magistrate refined the psychology of the 
affair with a veritable passion for his calling. Never, said 
he, had he penetrated so thoroughly to the bottom of human 
nature ; and it was by divination rather than observation, 
for he flattered himself he belonged to the school of far- 
seeing and fascinating judges, those who have the power of 
upsetting a man by a glance. Besides, proofs were no longer 
wanting, and conjointly formed a crushing charge. Hence- 
forth, the prosecution were in possession of a solid basis to 
work upon, and the certainty of the guilt of the prisoners 
burst forth in dazzling brightness like the light of the sun. 

And what added to the glory of M. Denizet was the way 
in which he brought out the double crime in one lump, after 
having patiently pieced it all together in the most profound 
secrecy. Since the noisy success of the plebiscite, the country 
continued in a state of feverish agitation, similar to that 
vertigo which precedes and ushers in great catastrophes. 
Among the society of this expiring Empire, in political circles, 
and particularly in the Press, a feeling of unceasing anxiety 
was manifest, coupled with an exaltation in which joy even 
took the form of sickly violence. So when it was ascertained, 
after the murder of a woman in the solitude of that isolated 
house at La Croix-de-Maufras, with what a stroke of genius 
the examining-magistrate at Rouen had just disinterred the 
old case of Grandmorin and connected it with the new crime, 
the news was hailed by an explosion of triumph among the 
newspapers intimately connected with the Government. 

From time to time there still appeared all sorts of jokes 
in the opposition news-sheets about that legendary assassin, 
who remained undiscovered — an invention of the police put 
forward to conceal the turpitude of certain high and mighty 
personages who found themselves involved. The response 
was about to be decisive. The murderer and his accomplice 
had been arrested, the memory of President Grandmorin 
would stand out intact. Then the bickering began again, and 



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The Monomaniac 389 

the excitement at Paris and Rouen increased from day to day. 
Apart from this hideous romance which haunted the imagina- 
tion of everyone, people became impassioned with the idea 
that, as the irrefutable truth had at length been discovered, 
the State would be consolidated thereby. 

M. Denizet, summoned to Paris, presented himself at the 
private residence of M. Camy-Lamotte in the Rue du Rocher. 
He found the chief secretary to the Minister of Justice on 
his feet in the centre of his severe-looking study, with a face 
more emaciated and fatigued than on the former occasion; 
for he was on the decline, and a prey to sadness, notwith- 
standing his scepticism. It seemed as if he felt a presentiment 
that the downfall of the regime he served was about to happen 
in the full splendour of its apotheosis. For the two previous 
days, he had been the victim of an inner struggle. He had 
not yet been able to decide what use he would make of the 
letter from SeVerine to the President which he still had by 
him. This letter would upset all the system of the prosecu- 
tion, by bringing irrefutable proof to bear upon the version 
put forward by Roubaud. 

But on the previous evening, the Emperor had told him 
that this time he insisted on justice being done, apart from 
any influence whatsoever, even if his Government suffered 
thereby. This was simply a straightforward utterance, or 
maybe the result of a superstitious idea that a single act of 
injustice after the acclamation of the country, might change 
its destiny. And if the chief secretary had no conscientious 
scruples, having reduced the things of this world to a mere 
matter of mechanism, he nevertheless felt troubled at the 
command he had received, and was asking himself whether 
he ought to love his master to the point of disobeying him ? 

M. Denizet at once burst into an exclamation of triumph. 

" Well," said he, " my scent did not deceive me ! It was 
Cabuche who murdered the President. Only there was some 
truth, I acknowledge, in the other clue, and I felt myself 



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39° The Monomaniac 

that the case against Roubaud looked suspicious. Anyhow, 
we have them botfi now." 

M. Camy-Lamotte fixed his pale eyes on him. 

"So all the facts in the bundle of papers sent me," he 
said, "are proved, and you are absolutely convinced?" 

" Oh ! absolutely ! " answered M. Denizet, without the 
slightest hesitation. "The evidence forms a perfect chain. 
I do not remember a single case in which the crime followed 
a more logical course, and one more easy to determine in 
advance." 

" But Roubaud protests," observed M. Camy-Lamotte; "he 
takes the first murder on his own shoulders; he relates a 
tale about his wife having been led astray, and how he, mad 
with jealousy, killed his victim in a fit of blind rage. The 
opposition newspapers relate all this." 

" Oh ! yes, they relate it as gossip, without daring to put 
faith in it. Jealous ! this Roubaud who facilitates the meetings 
of his wife and her sweetheart ! Ah ! he may repeat this 
story at the assize court, but he will not succeed in raising 
the scandal he desires. Why not give some proof? But 
he produces nothing. It is true that he speaks of a letter 
he made his wife write, and which should have been found 
among the papers of the President. You, sir, sorted those 
papers, I believe, and you would have come across it, would 
you not?" 

M. Camy-Lamotte did not reply. It was a fact that the 
scandal would finally be buried, by allowing the examining- 
magistrate to proceed with his system, the memory of the 
President would be freed from an abominable taint, and the 
Empire would benefit by this noisy rehabilitation of one of 
its creatures. Besides, as this Roubaud acknowledged himself 
guilty, what mattered ,it for the purpose of justice whether 
he was condemned for one version or the other? It was 
true that there remained Cabuche; but, if this man had 
nothing to do with the first murder, he appeared to be really 



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The Monomaniac 391 

the author of the second. Then justice itself was but a 
final illusion ! Is not the idea of wishing to be just a 
snare, when truth is clouded in such dense obscurity? It 
would be much better to be wise, and prop up this society 
on the wane, that threatened ruin- 

"That is so, is it not?" inquired M. Denizet "You did 
not find this letter ?" 

Again M. Camy-Lamotte raised his eyes to him ; and, 
being himself master of the position, he took on his own 
conscience the remorse that had disturbed the Emperor, 
and quietly answered : 

*" I found absolutely nothing." 

Then, all smiles and with great affability, he showered 
congratulations on the examining-magistrate. Barely a slight 
pleat at the corners of his mouth indicated an expression 
of invincible irony. Never had an inquiry been conducted 
with so much penetration ; and it was decided in the proper 
quarter that he should be summoned to Paris as counsellor 
after the vacationt And in this manner M. Camy-Lamotte 
conducted his visitor to the landing. 

" You alone have seen clearly through the whole business/' 
said he, in conclusion; "and your perspicacity is really 
admirable. From the moment truth speaks, nothing can stop 
it, neither personal interest, nor even State-policy. Proceed. 
Let the case take its course, whatever the consequences 
may be." 

"That is absolutely the duty of the magistracy," added 
M. Denizet, who bowed and took his departure beaming 
with delight. 

When M. Camy-Lamotte was alone, he first of all lighted 
a candle ; then he went and took the note, written by S£verine> 
from the drawer where he had placed it. The candle 
was burning very high. He unfolded the letter, wishing to 
read the two lines ; and the remembrance came back to him 
of this delicate criminal with blue eyes, who had formerly 



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39 2 The Monomaniac 

stirred him with such tender sympathy. Now she was dead, 
and he saw her again in tragedy. Who knew the secret 
she must have carried away with her? Certainly truth and 
justice were illusions ! And as he approached the letter to 
the flame and it caught alight, he felt very sad, as if he 
had the presentiment of misfortune. What was the good of 
destroying this proof, of loading his conscience with this 
action if the Empire was destined to be swept away, like 
the pinch of black ash fallen from his fingers ? 

M. Denizet concluded the inquiry in less than a week. 
He found the Western Railway Company extremely willing 
to give him assistance. All the papers he desired, as well 
as all the evidence likely to be useful, were placed at his 
disposal ; for the company, also, had the keenest desire 
to see the end of this deplorable scandal connected with 
one of its staff which, ascending through the complicated 
machinery of its organisation, had threatened to disturb even 
its board of directors. It became necessary to remove the 
mortified limb with all speed. And so, M. Dabadie, Moulin, 
and others from Havre again filed through the room of 
the examining-magistrate, giving the most disastrous details 
in regard to the bad conduct of Roubaud; next came 
M. Bessifere, the station-master at Barentin, as well as 
several of the servants of the company at Rouen, whose 
evidence proved of decisive importance, in respect to the 
first murder ; then, M. Vandorpe, the station-master at Paris, 
Misard, the signalman, and the headguard, Henri Dauvergne — 
the two last being particularly affirmative concerning the 
complacent conjugal easiness of the accused. Henri, whom 
Severine had looked after at La Croix-de-Maufras, even ven- 
tured to relate that one night while still weak he believed 
he heard Roubaud and Cabuche concerting together under 
the window. This went a long way towards explaining matters, 
and upset the system of the two accused, who pretended 
they were unknown to one another. The entire staff of the 



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The Monomaniac 393 

company raised a cry of reprobation. Everyone pitied the 
unfortunate victims, that poor young woman for whose short- 
comings there was so much excuse ; that upright old gentle- 
man, whose memory was now cleared of the ugly stories 
which had been circulated respecting him. 

But it was in the Grandmorin family, particularly, that this 
new trial had aroused the passions again, and if M. Denizet 
still met with powerful support from this quarter, he had 
to struggle to maintain the integrity of his system. The 
Lachesnayes chaunted victory, for, exasperated at the legacy 
of La Croix-de-Maufras, bleeding with avarice, they had never 
ceased insisting on the guilt of Roubaud. So when the case 
came to the surface again, the only thing they saw in it was 
an opportunity to attack the will; and as there existed but 
one way of obtaining the revocation of the legacy, that of 
depriving S^verine under a judgment of forfeiture by reason 
of ingratitude, they accepted, in part, the version of Roubaud ; 
namely, that his wife was an accomplice who had assisted 
him to kill the President, although not out of vengeance for 
an imaginary infamy, but for the purpose of robbing him. 
The examining-magistrate therefore entered into a conflict 
with them, particularly with Berthe, who showed herself very 
bitter against her old friend, the murdered woman, whom 
" she charged abominably ; while he defended her with heat, 
flying into a temper when anyone touched his masterpiece — 
that edifice of logic, so well erected, as he proudly said him- 
self, that if one piece were removed it would all tumble down. 

In this connection a very lively scene occurred in his private 
room, between the Lachesnayes and Madame Bonnehon. 
The latter, who, on the former occasion, had supported the 
Roubauds, had found herself compelled to abandon the 
husband; but she continued to stand up for his wife, by 
reason of a sort of tender complicity, being very tolerant in 
regard to beauty and matters of the heart, and she was quite 
agitated with this tragic romance bespattered with blood. 



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394 The Monomaniac 

She spoke out very plainly, and was full of disdain for 
money. Was her niece not ashamed to return to this ques- 
tion of the legacy? To pronounce SeVerine guilty would be 
to accept the pretended confession of Roubaud in its entirety, 
and taint the memory of the President afresh. Had not the 
inquiry so ingeniously established the truth, it would have 
been necessary to invent it, for the honour of the family. 
And she spoke rather bitterly about Rouennais society, which 
made such a fuss anent the matter ; that society she no longer 
reigned over -now that age had come, and she was losing even 
her opulent blonde beauty of a goddess of ripe years. Yes ; 
again on the previous evening, at the house of Madame 
Leboucq, the wife of the counsellor, that tall, elegant brunette 
who had dethroned her, the guests whispered broad anecdotes 
together: the adventure of Louisette, and everything public 
malignity could invent. 

At this moment, M. Denizet intervened to inform her that 
M. Leboucq would sit as assessor at the coming assizes, and 
the Lachesnayes, who felt uneasy, held their tongues with an 
air of giving in. But Madame Bonnehon allayed their alarm, 
remarking that she was certain justice would be done ; the 
assizes would be presided over by her old friend M. Desbazeilles, 
whose rheumatism only permitted him the recollection of the 
past, in the matter of gallantry; and the second assessor would 
be M. Chaumette, the father of the young substitute 'who 
was under her protection. She therefore had no anxiety, 
although a melancholy smile played on her lips when she 
mentioned this gentleman, whose son had latterly been noticed 
as a visitor at the house of Madame Leboucq, where she 
herself had sent him, so that there might be no impediment 
to his future. 

When the famous trial at last began, the rumour of 
approaching war and the agitation that spread all over France, 
prevented a good deal of the reverberation that the proceedings 
would otherwise have occasioned. Rouen, nevertheless, was 



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The Monomaniac 395 

for three days in a high state of fever. A regular crush 
occurred at the entrance to the court, and the reserved seats 
were invaded by ladies of the town. 

Never had the ancient palace of the Dukes of Normandy 
accommodated such an affluence of people since it had been 
fitted up as a Palace of Justice. The trial took place in the 
last days of June. The afternoons were warm and sunny, 
and the bright light lit up the ten stained-glass windows, 
bathing in luminosity the oak woodwork, the white stone 
crucifix, which stood out at the end of the room against the 
red hangings sprinkled with bees, as well as the celebrated 
ceiling of the time of Louis XII. with its carved squares 
gilded in very old and softly toned gold. 

The public were already stifling before the proceedings 
commenced. Women stood on tiptoe to see the various in- 
criminating articles lying spread out on the table : the watch 
belonging to Grandmorin, the blood-stained nightdress of 
SeVerine, and the knife that had served for the two murders. 
The gentleman defending Cabuche, an advocate from Paris, 
was also a centre of interest. In the jury-box sat twelve stout 
and grave Rouennais buttoned up in their frock-coats. And 
when the judges entered, there was so much pushing among 
the public who were standing, that the President at once had 
to threaten that he would have the court cleared. 

At last the case was called on, and the jury sworn. Reading 
over the names of the witnesses caused another stir among 
the crowd who were burning with curiosity. At those of 
Madame Bonnehon and M. de Lachesnaye the heads swayed 
from side to side; but Jacques particularly impassioned 
the ladies, who followed him with their eyes. As soon as the 
accused were brought in, each between two gendarmes, the 
public never ceased looking at them ; and, criticising their 
appearance, found that they both looked low and ferocious, 
like a couple of bandits. Roubaud, in his dark jacket, with 
& necktie arranged after the manner of a person neglectful 



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39 6 The Monomaniac 

of his appearance, caused surprise by his prematurely old 
manner, and his stupid-looking face bursting with fat. As to 
Cabuche, he was as everyone expected to find him. Wearing 
a long blue blouse he seemed the very type of an assassin, 
with enormous fists, and a carnivorous jaw. Just one of those 
fellows whom you would not care to knock up against at 
the corner of a wood on a dark night. 

The examination of the prisoner confirmed this bad im- 
pression, and some of his replies aroused violent murmurs. 
To all the questions addressed to him by the President, 
Cabuche answered that he did not know. He did not know 
how it was that the watch had got to his hut, he did not 
know why he had allowed the real assassin to run away. He 
persevered in his story of this mysterious unknown, whose 
flight he had heard in the impenetrable darkness. 

Questioned as to his bestial passion for his unfortunate 
victim, he began stammering in such a sudden, violent fit 
of anger, that the two gendarmes seized him by the arms. 
No, no ; he did not love her, he did not want her ; all these 
tales were falsehoods. The mere thought would have been 
an infamy — she who was a lady, whereas he had been in 
prison and lived like a savage ! Then, when he became calm, 
he fell into doleful silence, confining himself to mono- 
syllables, indifferent to the verdict and sentence that might 
ensue. 

Roubaud, in the same way, kept to what the accusation 
called his system. He related how and why he had killed 
Grandmorin, and denied all participation in the murder of 
his wife ; but he did so in broken and almost incoherent 
phrases, with sudden failures of memory, and with eyes so 
troubled, and a voice so thick, that at times he seemed to 
search for and invent the details. But as the President urged 
him on, pointing out the absurdities in his narrative, he ended 
by shrugging his shoulders and refused to answer. What 
was the use of speaking the truth, since lies were logic ? 



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The Monomaniac 397 

This attitude of aggressive disdain for the bench did him 
the utmost injury. Everyone also observed the profound un- 
concern of the two accused for one another, which seemed 
to be a proof that they had come to an understanding before- 
hand, and carried it out with extraordinary strength of will. 
They pretended they were strangers, and even accused each 
other, solely for the purpose of embarrassing the bench. 
When the examination of the two prisoners came to an end 
the case was already tried, so cleverly had the President put 
his questions. Roubaud and Cabuche had fallen head over 
ears into the traps set for them, whilst appearing to deliver 
themselves up. A few witnesses of no importance were also 
heard on that day. Towards five o'clock the heat had 
become so unbearable that two ladies fainted. 

Great sensation was caused on the morrow by the examina- 
tion of certain other witnesses. Madame Bonnehon had a 
genuine success of superiority and tact. The members of 
the staff of the railway company, M. Vandorpe, M. Bessifere, 
M. Dabadie, and particularly M. Cauche were listened to 
with interest. The commissary of police proved extremely 
prolix, relating how he knew Roubaud very well from having 
frequently played a game with him at the Caf€ du Commerce. 
Henri Dauvergne repeated his overwhelming testimony re- 
specting his conviction of having, in his feverish drowsiness, 
overheard the two prisoners concerting together in low voices. 
Questioned as to S^verine, he displayed great discretion 
giving it to be understood that he had been in love with 
her, but finding she had a sweetheart, he had loyally effaced 
himself. 

So when this same sweetheart, Jacques Lantier, at length 
came forward, a buzz ascended from the crowd. Some 
people stood up to get a better view of him, and even the 
jury bestirred themselves in a movement of deep attention 
Jacques, who was very calm, leant with both hands on the 
iron bar in front of him in the attitude he usually took 



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39 8 The Monomaniac 

when driving his engine. His appearance in court, which 
should have troubled him profoundly, left him absolute 
lucidity of mind. It seemed as if the case did not concern 
him in any way. He was about to give his testimony as a 
stranger and an innocent man. Since the crime he had 
not felt a single shiver, nor did he even think of these 
matters, which were banished from his recollection. His 
organs were in a state of equilibrium, and his health was 
perfect. Here again, at this bar, he experienced neither 
remorse nor scruple, being absolutely unconscious. 

He immediately cast a clear glance at Roubaud and 
Cabuche. He knew the first to be guilty, but he gave him 
a slight nod, without reflecting that everybody was aware at 
present that he had been the sweetheart of his wife. Then, 
he smiled at the other, the innocent man, whose place 
in the dock he should have occupied : a good brute at 
the bottom, in spite of his look of a bandit, a strapping 
fellow whom he had seen at work, and whose hand he had 
grasped. 

Jacques gave his evidence with perfect ease, answering 
in short, clear sentences the questions that were put to him 
by the President, who, after interrogating him at length 
about his intimacy with the victim, made him relate his 
departure from La Croix-de-Maufras a few hours before 
the murder : how he had gone to take the train at Barentin 
and how he had slept at Rouen. Cabuche and Roubaud 
listened to him, confirming his answers by their attitude. 

At this moment, an unspeakable feeling of sadness took 
possession of these three men. Deathlike silence reigned in 
the room, and the jury experienced an emotion occasioned 
they knew not by what, which caused a lump to rise in their 
throats. It was truth that was passing mute. 

In reply to a question of the President, who desired to 
know what Jacques thought of the unknown figure, who, 
according to the story of the quarryman, had vanished in 



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The Monomaniac 399 

the obscurity, he contented himself by shaking his head, as 
if he did not wish to overload a prisoner. 

An incident then occurred which completely upset the 
public. Tears welled in the eyes of Jacques, and overflowing, 
trickled down his cheeks. S^verine, as he had already seen 
her once before, had just risen up before him — that wretched, 
murdered woman, whose image he had carried away with him, 
with her blue eyes, immoderately wide open, and her black 
hair standing on end on her forehead like a helmet of terror. 
He still adored her, and seized with immense pity, he wept 
abundant tears, unconscious of his crime, forgetful of being 
amidst this crowd. Some of the ladies, affected by this 
display of tenderness, began to sob. The grief of the sweet- 
heart, while the husband remained unmoved, was considered 
extremely touching. The President, having inquired of the 
defence whether they desired to ask the witness any questions, 
the advocates thanked him and answered No; while the 
prisoners, whose countenances bore a doltish expression, 
followed Jacques with their eyes, as he returned to his seat 
amidst the general sympathy of the public. 

The third day of the trial was entirely taken up by the 
address of the Imperial Procurator, and the pleadings of the 
advocates on behalf of the accused. First of all the President 
delivered his summing-up of the case, in the course of which, 
under an appearance of absolute impartiality, the charge of 
the prosecution was aggravated. The Imperial Procurator, 
who followed, did not seem to be in the enjoyment of all 
his powers. He usually displayed more conviction, a deeper 
eloquence. This was attributed to the heat, which was really 
most oppressive. The advocate from Paris, who pleaded for 
Cabuche, on the contrary, afforded great pleasure without 
convincing his hearers; while the eminent member of the 
Rouen bar, who defended Roubaud, also made the most he 
could of a bad case. The Imperial Procurator, who felt 
fatigued, did not even reply. 



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400 The Monomaniac 

When the jury retired to their room it was only six o'clock. 
Broad daylight still entered the court by the six windows, and 
a final ray lit up the arms of the towns of Normandy, decorating 
the imposts. A loud sound of voices rose to the old gilded 
ceiling, and the swaying of an impatient crowd shook the 
iron grating that separated the reserved seats from the public 
standing up. But silence was restored as soon as the jury 
returned. The verdict, which was guilty, admitted extenuating 
circumstances ; and the two men were sentenced to hard 
labour for life. The result caused great surprise. The public 
streamed out of court in a tumult, and a few shrill whistles 
were heard as at the theatre. 

That same evening throughout Rouen the sentence gave 
rise to endless comments. According to general opinion, 
it was a blow for Madame Bonnehon and the Lachesnayes. 
Nothing short of a death sentence, it appeared, would have 
satisfied the family; and adverse interests must certainly 
have made themselves felt. People already spoke in an 
undertone of Madame Leboucq, three or four of whose 
faithful slaves were on the jury. No doubt there had been 
nothing incorrect in the attitude of her husband as assessor ; 
and yet an impression seemed to prevail, that neither 
M. Chaumette, the other assessor, nor even M. Desbazeilles, 
the President, felt themselves such absolute masters of the 
proceedings as they would have wished. 

Perhaps it was simply that the jury full of scruples, in 
according extenuating circumstances, had ceded to that 
uneasy feeling of doubt that had for a moment swept 
through the room — the silent flight of melancholy truth. 
After all, the case remained a triumph for M. Denizet, the 
examining-magistrate, whose masterpiece nothing could impair. 
The family lost a good deal of sympathy when a rumour 
got abroad that M. de Lachesnayes, contrary to all idea 
of jurisprudence, spoke of bringing an action in revocation, 
in spite of the death of the donee, to regain possession of 



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The Monomaniac 4 QI 

La Croix-de-Maufras, which caused astonishment considering 
he was a judge. 

On leaving the law courts, Jacques was joined by 
Philomfene, who had remained as witness, and who now took 
possession of him. He would only resume duty on the 
morrow, and he invited her to dinner at the inn near the 
station, where he pretended he had passed the night of 
the crime. He did not intend to sleep there, being 
absolutely obliged to return to Paris by the 12.50 train in 
the morning. 

"What do you think," said she, as she proceeded on his 
arm towards the inn, "I could swear that I met one of 
our acquaintances just now ! Yes, Pecqueux, who told me, 
again and again the other day, that he would not put his 
foot in Rouen for the case. At one time I turned round, 
and a man, whose back only I could see, slipped into the 
middle of the crowd." 

The driver, with a shrug of the shoulders, interrupted 
her : 

" Pecqueux is in Paris, on the spree," said he ; " only 
too delighted at the holiday that my absence from duty 
procures him." 

"That may be possible," she answered. "But, neverthe 
less, let us be on our guard, for he is a most abominable 
brute when he is in a rage." 

She pressed against him, adding with a glance behind 
her: 

" And do you know the man who is following us ? " 

" Yes," he replied. " Do not bother about him. Perhaps 
he wants to ask me something." 

It was Misard, who had in fact been following them at 
a distance from the Rue des Juifs. He had given his 
evidence in his usual drowsy manner; and had remained 
hovering around Jacques, unable to make up his mind to 
put a question to him, which was visibly on his lips. When 

26 



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402 The Monomaniac 

the couple disappeared in the inn, he entered in his turn, 
and called for a glass of wine. 

" Hullo ! Is that you, Misard ? " exclaimed the driver. 
" And how are you getting on with your new wife ? All 
right?" 

"Yes, yes," grumbled the signalman. "Ah! the wretch, 
she took me in. Eh? I told you about that when I was 
here on the last occasion." 

This story amused Jacques immensely. The woman 
Ducloux, the former servant of dubious antecedents whom 
Misard had taken as gatekeeper, had soon perceived, on 
noticing him rummaging in the corners, that he must be 
searching for a hoard, hidden by the defunct; and to make 
him marry her, she had conceived the ingenious idea of 
giving him to understand by sudden reticences and little 
laughs that she had found it herself. First of all he was 
on the point of strangling her; then, reflecting that the 
1,000 frcs. would again escape him, if he were to suppress 
her like the other, before he had them, he became very 
flattering and amiable. But she repelled him. She would 
not allow him to touch her. No, no; when she became 
his wife he should have both her and the money. And 
when he had married her, she simply laughed at him, re- 
marking that he was a great stupid to believe everything 
that was told him. The beauty of the whole business, was 
that when she heard all about it, she caught the fever from 
him, and henceforth sought for the money in his company, 
being quite as much enraged as himself to find it. Ah ! 
those undiscoverable 1,000 frcs., they would certainly ferret 
them out one of these days, now that they were two ! And 
they sought, sought. 

" So you have no news ? " inquired Jacques, in a bantering 
tone. "But does not Ducloux assist you?" 

Misard fixed his eyes on him, and at last said what he 
had been wanting to say. 



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The Monomaniac 403 

" If you know where they are," he exclaimed, "tell me." 

But the driver became angry. 

" I know nothing at all," he replied. " Aunt Phasie did 
not give me anything. You do not mean to accuse me of 
stealing, I suppose?" 

" Oh ! She gave you nothing that is certain," he answered. 
" You see I am ill, and if you know where they are, tell me." 

" Go to blazes ! " retorted Jacques ; " and mind I do 
not say too much. Just take a look in the salt-box to 
see if they are there." 

Misard continued looking at him with pallid face and 
burning eyes. Then came a sudden flash of enlightenment. 

"In the salt-box?" he remarked. "By Jove that is an 
idea ! Underneath the drawer there is a place where I have 
not looked." 

Hastily settling for his glass of wine, he ran off to the 
railway station, to see if he could catch the 7.10 train. And 
yonder in the little low habitation he sought eternally. 

In the evening after dinner, while waiting for the 12.50 train, 
Philomfene insisted on taking Jacques for a walk down the 
dark alleys, and out into the adjoining country. The atmo- 
sphere was extremely heavy — a hot, moonless July night, that 
filled her bosom with heavy sighs. On two occasions she 
fancied she heard footsteps behind them, but on turning round 
could "perceive no one, owing to the dense obscurity. 

Jacques suffered considerably from this oppressive heat. 
Notwithstanding his tranquil equilibrium of mind and the 
perfect health that he enjoyed since the murder, he had just 
experienced at table a return of that distant uneasiness, each 
time that this woman grazed him with her wandering hands. 
This was no doubt due to fatigue, to enervation caused by 
the heavy atmosphere. The anguish now returned more 
keenly and was full of secret terror. And yet was he not 
thoroughly cured ? Nevertheless, his excitement became such 
that in dread of an attack, he would have disengaged his arm 



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404 The Monomaniac 

had not the darkness surrounding him removed his fears ; for 
never, even on days when he felt the effects of his complaint 
the most sharply, would he have struck without seeing. All 
at once, as they came to a grassy slope beside a solitary 
pathway and sat down, the monstrous craving began again. 
He flew into a fit of madness, and at first searched in the 
grass for a weapon, for a stone, to smash her head. Then 
he sprang to his feet, and was already fleeing in distraction, 
when he heard a male voice uttering oaths, and making a 
great disturbance. 

" Ah ! you strumpet ! " shouted Pecqueux. " I have waited 
to the end; I wanted to make sure!" 

" It is false," answered Philomfene. " Let me go ! " 

" Ah ! It is false ! " said Pecqueux. " He may run, 
the other one. I know who he is, and shall be able to 
come up with him. Look there, dare to say again that it 
is not true ! " 

Jacques tore along in the darkness, not fleeing from 
Pecqueux whom he had just recognised, but running away 
from himself, mad with grief. 

Eh! what! one murder had not sufficed! He was not 
satiated with the blood of S^verine as he had thought, even 
in the morning. He was now beginning again. Another, 
and then another, and then still another ! A few weeks of 
torpor after being thoroughly gorged, and his frightful craving 
returned. He required the flesh of women then, without 
end, to satisfy him. It was now no longer necessary to set 
eyes on this element of seduction, the mere sensation of 
feeling the glow of a woman sufficed. This put a stop to 
all enjoyment in life. Before him was nothing but the dark 
night, through which he fled, and boundless despair. 

A few days passed, Jacques had resumed his duty, avoiding 
his comrades, relapsing into his former anxious unsociableness. 
War had just been declared after some stormy scenes in 
the Chamber; and there had already been a little fight at 



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The Monomaniac 4°5 

the outposts, attended by a satisfactory result it was said. 
For a week past, the departure of troops had overwhelmed 
the servants of the railway companies with fatigue. The 
regular service had become upset through the long delays 
occasioned by the frequent extra trains; without counting 
that the best drivers had been requisitioned to hasten the 
concentration of troops. And it was thus that Jacques, one 
night at Havre, had to drive an enormously long train of 
eighteen trucks absolutely crammed with soldiers, instead of 
his usual express. 

On that night, Pecqueux arrived at the depot very drunk. 
The day after he had surprised Philomfene and Jacques, 
he had accompanied the latter on the engine 608 as fire- 
man ; and since then, although he made no allusion to 
the matter, he was gloomy and seemed as if he dared not 
look his chief in the face. But the latter found him more 
and more rebellious, refusing to obey, and greeting every 
order he received with a surly growl. As a result, they had 
entirely ceased speaking to one another. 

This moving plate, this little bridge which formerly bore 
them along in unity, was naught at this hour but the narrow, 
dangerous platform on which their rivalry clashed. The 
hatred was increasing, they were on the verge of devouring 
one another on these few square feet as they flew onward full 
speed, and from which the slightest shock would precipitate 
them. On this particular night, Jacques, seeing Pecqueux 
drunk, felt distrustful; for he knew him to be too artful to 
get angry when sober ; wine alone released the inner brute. 

The train which should have left at six o'clock was delayed. 
It was already dark when they entrained the soldiers into 
cattle-trucks like sheep. Planks had simply been nailed 
across the vehicles in form of benches, and the men were 
packed there by squads, cramming the trucks beyond 
measure ; so that while some were seated one upon another 
a few stood up, so jammed together that they could not 



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406 The Monomaniac 

move a limb. On reaching Paris another train was in readi- 
ness to take them to the Rhine. They were already weighed 
down with fatigue in the confusion of departure. But as 
brandy had been distributed among them, and many had 
visited drinking-places in the vicinity of the station, they were 
full of heated and brutal gaiety, very red in the face, and 
with eyes starting from their heads. As soon as the train 
moved out of the station, they began to sing. 

Jacques immediately gazed at the sky, where storm-clouds 
hid the stars. The night would be very dark, not a breath 
of wind stirred the burning air, and the wind of the advance, 
generally so fresh, proved tepid. In the sombre outlook 
ahead, appeared no other lights than the bright sparks of 
the signals. He increased the pressure to ascend the long 
slope from Harfleur to Saint Romain. In spite of the study 
he had made of the engine No. 608 for some weeks, he had 
not yet got it perfectly in hand. It was too new, and its 
caprice, its errors of youth astonished him. 

On that night the locomotive proved particularly restive, 
whimsical, ready to fly away if only a few more pieces of coal 
than necessary, were placed on the bars. And so, with his 
hand on the reversing-wheel, he watched the fire, becoming 
more and more anxious at the behaviour of his fireman. The 
small lamp, lighting the water-level in the gauge-glass, left the 
foot-plate in a penumbra, which the red-hot door of the fire-box 
rendered violescent. He distinguished Pecqueux indistinctly, 
but on two occasions he had felt a sensation in the legs 
like the graze of fingers being exercised to grip him there. 
Doubtless this was nothing more than the clumsiness of a 
drunkard, for above the riot of the train he could hear 
Pecqueux sneering very loudly, breaking his coal with ex- 
aggerated blows of the hammer, and knocking with his shovel. 
Each minute he opened the door of the fire-box, flinging fuel 
on the bars in unreasonable quantities. 

" Enough ! " shouted Jacques. 



Digitized byLjOOQlC 



The Monomaniac 407 

The other, pretending not to understand, continued throwing 
in shovel upon shovel of coal ; and as the driver grasped 
him by the arm, he turned round threateningly, having at 
last brought on the quarrel he had been seeking, in the 
increasing fury of his drunkenness. 

" If you touch me I shall strike ! " yelled Pecqueux. " It 
amuses me to go quick ! " 

The train was now rolling along full speed across the 
plain from Bolbec to Motteville, and was to go at one 
stretch to Paris without stopping, save at the places indicated 
to take in water. The enormous mass, the eighteen trucks 
loaded, crammed with human cattle, crossed the dark 
country in a ceaseless roar ; and these men who were being 
carted along to be massacred sang, sang at the pitch of 
their voices, making such a clamour that it could be heard 
above the riot of the wheels. 

Jacques closed the door of the fire-box with his foot. Then, 
manoeuvring the injector, he still restrained himself. 

" There is too big a fire," said he. " Go to sleep if you 
are drunk ! " 

Pecqueux immediately opened the door again, and obsti- 
nately threw on more coal, as if he wanted to blow up the 
engine. This was rebellion, orders disregarded, exasperated 
passion that took no further heed of all these human lives. 
And Jacques, having leant over to lower the rod of the 
ash-pan himself, so as to at least lessen the draught, the 
fireman abruptly caught him round the body, and tried to 
push him, to throw him on the line with a violent jerk. 

" You blackguard ! " exclaimed Jacques. " So that is your 
game, is it ? And then you would say that I tumbled over ! 
You artful brute ! " 

He clung to the side of the tender, and both slid down. 
The struggle continued on the little iron-bridge, which 
danced violently. They ceased speaking, and with set 
teeth each did his utmost to precipitate the other through 



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408 The Monomaniac 

the narrow opening at the side which was only closed by 
an iron bar. But this did not prove easy. The devouring 
engine rolled on, and still rolled on. Barentin was passed, 
the train plunged into the tunnel of Malaunay, and they 
continued to hold each other tightly, grovelling in the 
coal, striking their heads against the side of the water-tank, 
but avoiding the red-hot door of the fire-box, which scorched 
their legs each time they extended them. 

At one moment, Jacques reflected that if he could raise 
himself he would close the regulator, and call for assistance, 
so that he might be freed of this furious madman, raging 
with drink and jealousy. Smaller in build than Pecqueux, 
he was becoming weak, and now despaired of finding suffi- 
cient strength to fling his aggressor from the locomotive. 
Indeed, he was already vanquished, and felt the terror of 
the fall pass through his hair. As in a supreme effort, he 
groped about with his hand, the other understood, and, 
stiffening his loins, raised him like a child. 

" Ah ! You want to stop ! Ah ! you took my girl ! Hah ! 
hah ! You will have to go over the side ! " 

The engine rolled onward, onward. The train issued from 
the tunnel with a great crash, and continued its course 
through the barren, sombre country. Malaunay station was 
passed in such a tempestuous blast that the assistant 
station-master, standing on the platform, did not even see 
the two men endeavouring to slaughter one another as the 
thunderbolt bore them away. 

At last, Pecqueux with a final spurt, precipitated Jacques 
from the engine ; but the latter, feeling himself in space, clung 
so tightly in his bewilderment to the neck of his antagonist^ 
that he dragged Pecqueux along with him. There were a 
couple of terrible shrieks, which mingled one with the other 
and were lost. The two men falling together, cast under the 
wheels by the counter shock, were cut to pieces clasping one 
another in that frightful embrace — they, who so long had lived 



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The Monomaniac 409 

as brothers. They were found without heads, and without 
feet, two bleeding trunks, still hugging as if to choke each 
other. 

And the engine, free from all guidance rolled on and on. 
At last the restive, whimsical thing could give way to the 
transports of youth, and gallop across the even country like 
some unbroken filly escaped from the hands of its groom. 
The boiler was full of water, the coal which had just been 
renewed in the fire-box, was aglow ; and during the first half- 
hour the pressure went up tremendously, while the speed 
became frightful. Probably the headguard, overcome with 
fatigue, had fallen asleep. The soldiers, whose intoxication 
increased through being packed so closely together, suddenly 
- became amused at this rapid flight of the train, and sang the 
louder. Maromme was passed in a flash. The whistle no 
longer sounded as the signals were approached, and the stations 
reached. This was the straight gallop of an animal charging, 
head down and silent, amidst the obstacles. And it rolled 
on and on without end, as if maddened more and more by 
the strident sound of its breath. 

At Rouen the engine should have taken in water ; and the 
people at the station were struck with terror when they saw 
this mad train dart by in a whirl of smoke and flame; the 
locomotive without driver or fireman, the cattle-trucks full of 
soldiers yelling patriotic songs. They were going to the war, 
and if the train did not stop it was in order that they might 
arrive more rapidly yonder, on the banks of the Rhine. The 
railway servants stood gaping, agitating their arms. Imme- 
diately there was one general cry, this train let loose, abandoned 
to itself, would never pass without impediment through 
Sotteville station, which was always blocked by shunting 
manoeuvres and obstructed by carriages and engines like all 
great depots. And there was a rush to the telegraph-office 
to give warning. 

At Sotteville a goods train, occupying the line, was shunted 



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4io The Monomaniac 

just in time. Already the rumble of the escaped monster 
could be heard in the distance. It had dashed into the two 
tunnels in the vicinity of Rouen, and was arriving at its 
furious gallop like a prodigious and irresistible force that 
naught could now stay; and Sotteville station was left 
behind. It passed among the obstacles without touching 
anything, and again plunged into the obscurity where its 
roar gradually died away. 

But now, all the telegraphic apparatus on the line was 
tinkling, all hearts were beating at the news of the phantom 
train which had just been seen passing through Rouen and 
Sotteville. Everyone trembled with fear, an express on ahead 
would certainly be caught up. The runaway, like a wild 
boar in the underwood, continued its course without giving 
any attention either to red lights or crackers. It almost 
ran into a pilot-engine at Oissel and terrified Pont-de-1'Arche, 
for its speed showed no signs of slackening. Again it had 
disappeared, and it rolled on and on in the obscure night, 
going none knew where — yonder. 

What mattered the victims the engine crushed on the road ! 
Was it not advancing towards the future in spite of all, 
heedless of the blood that might be spilt ? Without a guide, 
amidst the darkness, like an animal blind and dumb let 
loose amidst death, it rolled on and on, loaded with this food 
for cannon, with these soldiers already besotted with fatigue 
and drink, who were singing. 



THE END. 



PrinUd by Ma**ll t Watson, <* Viniy, Ld. y London and AyUsbury. 



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IKcssrs* fititcDinson $ Co/s 
IHio Roods, Autumn 1901 

By GEORGE GRIFFITH. 

Captain Ishmael 

By the Author of " The Angel of the Revolution/ 
"The Outlaws of the Air," etc. 

With a Frontispiece and Cover design by 
HAROLD PIFFARD. 

In crown Svo, cloth gilt. 6s. 

This Saga of the South Seas is a legitimate mixture of 
fact and legendary fancy, so woven together that a most 
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quickens in action as it proceeds, until a fine climax is 
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for such a thrilling story as he has given here. It 
deals with vast treasures, naval engagements, guns of 
marvellous power, volcanic isles, and other marvels 
which the Author knows so well how to turn to account 
in an exciting work of fiction. 



By CHRIS. HEALY. 

The Work of his Hands 

In crown &vo, cloth gilt. 6s. 

This unusually powerful story by a clever new novelist 
is bound to command attention. It is altogether original, 
and exceptionally well written. The principal character 
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passes through fire, but his good angel saves him. The 
characters are strongly drawn, the style is vigorous, and 
the story itself absorbingly interesting. 

HUTCHINSON & CO., Paternoster Row 



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nitssrs* mitcDinson $ Co/s 
Rcio Roods, Autumii 1901 

ify GEORGE GIBBS. 

In Search of Mademoiselle 

In crown 8vo, cloth gilt 6s. 
With 8 full-page Illustrations by the Author. 

Sydney Killigrew, the hero of this historical romance 
of the time of Elizabeth, is a young Englishman who, 
being impoverished, is easily induced to serve on board 
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soon sees some fighting : a Spanish ship is captured, and 
the Mademoiselle of the story rescued from captivity. She 
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Killigrew to join them when they sail, with other 
Huguenots, for Florida. Spanish vessels follow them. 
On the Huguenots landing there is a massacre. Killigrew 
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her fate. Another expedition sets out from France to 
save the honour of the country and to avenge the massacre. 
Killigrew joins this expedition, hoping to save Made- 
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the French, being aided by the Indians, ultimately put 
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happiness for which they have waited. There is much 
that is fresh in this story, for the early colonisation of 
Florida has not been frequently dealt with ; but the story 
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written in a simple but vigorous style, there is not a dull 
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vividly described. It is a fine, well-constructed romance, 
founded on historical facts, and a thoroughly artistic piece 
of work right above the average of historical novels. 

HUTCHINSON & CO., Paternoster Row 

O 

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